Amy Bushatz is the executive editor of Military.com.
Shortly after news broke Jan. 26 of Kobe Bryant's death in a helicopter crash, a shocking announcement from the U.S. Navy spread like wildfire over military-related social media pages: "30 Marines, 1 Sailor Die in Helicopter Crash."
The world was talking about the death of a basketball star, but the loss of 31 members of the U.S. military was nowhere to be found on any news site, military or otherwise, including this one.
It's never been easier to ensure friends and family can read the latest important military story seemingly ignored by the rest of America. And when the death of a celebrity sparks national mourning, but the loss of military members and first responders goes unnoticed, it seems like the right thing to do.
But if we're not careful, our fervor to make sure our friends and family witness the sacrifices of our military can result in one big problem: bad information.
The Navy release was not published here or on any other site because the crash -- tragic, horrible and deserving of daily remembrance just like every military loss -- happened 15 years ago on Jan. 26, 2005.
The 2005 crash that killed those 31 service members is not the only time an old story has been shared as new. A social media post about a group of Marines who died over a single week in July 2010 regularly makes the rounds appearing to be new. "All 11 were Marines that gave their lives this week for everyone in this country," the post says.
But "this week," in that case, is years old and, while their sacrifice is worth remembering, it is not recent.
Likewise, a similar post asks for prayers for the families of 30 service members whose helicopter was shot down "yesterday." Only "yesterday" is no longer accurate. That post refers to the loss of a helicopter with the call sign Extortion 17, shot down in August 2011.
In our rush to make sure we recognize the sacrifices of military members, we must also pause to ensure the information we are sharing is accurate. And when it comes to news of loss, that must include making sure it is recent or timely.
Military.com is not always perfect when it comes to this issue. A bug from a site update stripped some of our old news stories of their dates, leaving articles displaying the publish date in the page URL but not on the page. We are working to address that problem.
But as news consumers -- particularly if you're a veteran or, like me, a military family member -- we have a personal responsibility to make sure the information we share is timely and valuable. That means, among other best practices, clicking through to the link and looking for a date.
And it's an especially important practice when it comes to military loss. Any person who has
ever sent a friend or loved one on deployment knows the familiar dread new headlines of loss can create. "30 Marines, 1 Sailor Die in Helicopter Crash." Could one of those be mine?
It may sound like a minor thing, but we don't need that kind of stress. Let's work to protect ourselves and our veteran and military communities by double-checking what we find for timeliness before we share it.
Let's save our outrage and fresh sorrow for what is real and current.