Thoughts on Thursday: responsibility and fake news

I am trying to structure the blog a bit better so that I have regular posts on certain days.
I toyed with the idea of creating a separate blog for rants so I can keep this purely gardening but because I regularly stray anyway, this is a warning that, for a while at least, Thursdays will be for braindumps.

I have wanted to rant about the newly elected President of the USA for months but have resisted so far – do we really need more words written about him?
What has struck me is the issue of ‘fake news’. I am a rather reluctant adopter of technology and I am more likely to ignore my ringing phone than answer it – I am just not that important that I need to be on it all the time.

Fake news‘ is just a modern way of saying that these ‘facts’ are lies. Whether they are malicious in intent or not, they are simply untruths. Why elevate them to ‘fake news’?

Why have they become a problem? Simple really – a lack of responsibility and electronic anonymity.

It reminds me of a meeting, many years ago, when I worked for a magazine publisher. The company was going through a restructuring ‘to prepare it for the future’ which was, of course a euphemism for sacking staff.

The editorial staff were gathered and we were told, by someone who, in his defence accurately, predicted the demise of editorial staff because of the rise of social media. No longer would people want experts to create articles because everyone would generate the content. I was very disturbed by this, having spent years training in horticulture and then, much less time, in journalism. Through many libel courses I knew the importance of checking facts and being responsible. The idea that anyone could write about gardening without really knowing the facts and give potentially harmful advice without any accountability astonished me.

It was prescient warning. We now live in an age when anyone can write anything without accountability and it is up to us to filter out the dross. Sometimes we can easily filter out the nonsense but more often we have to work harder to find the true facts. It is a great shame.

When the internet started it was a great resource. No longer did you have to go to the library and hope that the book you wanted was there to find facts – now it was at our fingertips. Now, a search online more often tells you where to buy things rather than tell you about them – it has become far less useful.

And in a bid to attract ‘clicks’ outrageous claims are made, just to get us to look. Fortunately, gardening is hardly the place most people will post ‘fake news’ but it is riddled with inaccuracies and I sometimes wonder what harm ‘bad information’ is doing. Gardening is about trial and error and there are so many variables that even if you do something ‘by the book’ the results can be different from year to year. But there are some things that are just wrong.

We don’t need fake news.

And with freedom comes responsibility.


10 Comments on “Thoughts on Thursday: responsibility and fake news”

  1. Lucy Clapp
    February 16, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    I agree. If I can add a complaint: the newspapers aren’t doing their job properly, online anyway. They now give us live news. Which isn’t what I want, I want a summary and maybe analysis and not a load of tweets!

    • thebikinggardener
      February 16, 2017 at 8:36 am #

      I agree with that too. The problem is down to reduced budgets I think so it is cheaper to have someone retweeting than have investigators. On the same subject I also object to when they get an expert in the studio to interview and then cut the image to irrelevant library footage rather than see the person talking – at the very least it is disrespectful and I feel as though I am being treated like an idiot – as though I can’t concentrate on what is being said for more than 15 seconds.

  2. derrickjknight
    February 16, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    Sound thoughts, Geoff. For what it is worth, I like the variety that comes with keeping one blog

    • thebikinggardener
      February 16, 2017 at 10:29 am #

      Thank you. I am just worried that the blog will upset people who visit for gardening info if I stray too far or too often. I will try to keep it in check 🙂

  3. joy
    February 16, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    i will look forward to Thursdays brain dump day . and very well said Geoff .

  4. susurrus
    February 16, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

    A few rants would be fine! One thing that worries me about online gardening advice is that even if the advice is good, there may be a disconnect between where a blogger lives and where the reader lives. What grows well in Lancashire may not survive in Mississippi and vice versa.

    • thebikinggardener
      February 17, 2017 at 9:08 am #

      That is very true, which is why I try to always comment on my conditions – even more important when readers can be in a different hemisphere! Climatic differences can be profound within just a few miles let alone across a continent!

  5. Kathy Larson
    February 17, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Well-reasoned,well-said,timely.Horrifying in politics,aggravating in horticulture.A friend who is a newish gardener forwarded me a Facebook post-starting annuals in flat-bottomed ice-cream cones.Biodegradable….I can’t imagine what my Plant Prop instructor would have said.

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