Beau Taylor of Tulsa provided media observers this week with a case study on how quickly an Internet rumor can be reported as news. Taylor started a thread Tuesday on a mixed martial arts Web site forum stating former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Kimo Leopoldo, 41, had died of a heart attack in Costa Rica. Taylor attributed the information to a fictitious person.
Other mixed martial arts Web sites soon reported Taylor’s message. Within hours it spread further after the Web site TMZ.com, which was the first media outlet to confirm the death of pop star Michael Jackson, reported it "confirmed” Leopoldo’s death. Taylor, 31, said he was surprised because he posts "nonsense all the time. I’m always joking around.” But Leopoldo’s representatives rousted the retired fighter from bed in California and confirmed he was alive and well at a Tuesday news conference. Leopoldo expressed frustration with how fast news of his demise spread. An Oklahoma media expert said the pressure of reporting a story another media outlet came out with first has been around for decades, going back to when even small cities had more than one newspaper. But the speed of online communication means the news reaches further and faster. The growing numbers of people who hear the report can lend credibility to a report in the mind of a consumer. "It’s lazy reporting,” said Joey Senat, a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University. New Era Fighting Web site