A newsroom staffer sent a screenshot this weekend to a text group of our reporters and editors. She had stumbled upon a Facebook page for a Portillo’s with an address in Bradley. It came with a simple yet profound question, “Is this true?”
That’s a question we here in the Daily Journal newsroom ask ourselves all day, every day. Truth is pretty important to us. We would go so far as to say it’s a pillar for us. So, it’s not surprising that was the sender’s first question.
We did not share the discovered page on our social media channels, nor did we publish news of the restaurant coming to the address listed in our print or digital editions. Why? Because we weren’t certain it was true.
The lack of verification of its authenticity didn’t stop hoards of people from liking the page and sharing that the beloved restaurant was coming to Kankakee County.
Since this would be a story of major importance to the communities we cover, we began looking into it. We examined other Portillo’s locations to see if they had independent social media presences, and they didn’t. Red flag No. 1. The imagery was very low res and not to the quality of the parent company’s other digital products. Red flag No. 2. With our suspicions looking like they were confirmed, our next step was to contact the company directly to inquire of the possible development — just to be sure.
But we ended up not having to take that step because the page had created such a commotion that the company put out a message stating it had no plans at this time to locate here. Turns out the page was the handiwork of an employee at a local restaurant who was tired of hearing about Portillo’s and speculation about when it will come here.
We can understand why people were excited to share and like the page. Portillo’s has amazing food and we’d love to run through there for lunch, too. But this innocuous example of false information on social media puts a spotlight on the more harmful mistruths that run rampant on the platforms.
It’s a good reminder to stop and consider your sources. Before you hit that share button or make a post, stop and ask yourself the same question we do — Is this true? If you’re not sure, hold off on that share until you are.