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Trick A Journalist Yourself February 3, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

I’m usually pretty good at distilling a story down to a single narrative, focusing on it, and writing to that narrative.

Yet here, as I try to focus, the entire narrative becomes larger, less focused, and blurred in my mind.

So, let me start with the facts.  Tech journalist (and smart tech guy) Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently noticed an ad on Facebook:

Trick a journalist,” said the ad in bold blue type. “Scrape the web for journalists, automatically contact them and get them writing about you. Let’s get you more suckers. There’s a journalist born every minute.”

(Disclaimer:  I have known SJVN almost since he started, and I admire his ability to continue to make what I assume to be a reasonable living writing freelance tech stories over the course of three decades.)

I will be dipped in shit.

Why, pray tell?  Is this what our society has come to?  In an era where the controlling rebuttal is “fake news”, do we as individuals feel the need to sow fake news to begin with?

Seriously, this is not funny.  And if you think it is, you need to run, not walk, to the nearest psychiatrist.  Get help, please.

Ah, but you have a business purpose?  A product to promote?  Or not yet a product, but something that will be a product later?  Do it the right way.  Tell your story.  You are allowed to be enthusiastic about it, but don’t ever try to trick your journalist.

Can a journalist be tricked?  Well, yes, just as we all can.  But to what purpose?  There doesn’t seem to be any purpose here, except as sport.  And as sport, it isn’t even sporting.

We have taken journalism and have attempted to turn it into a laughingstock, a false supposition into an uncertain story.  I suppose this was inevitable, in an era where legitimate journalists can’t earn a living, and illegitimate ones get thousands of followers.

If you are laughing now, let me ask you this: When will this happen to your profession?  Sooner than you think, I will wager.  Trick a doctor?  Trick a software engineer.  Why not?  We have opened the floodgates.  There are no facts, only the narratives that are fostered by those who shout the loudest.

I am offended.  While many stories are more complex than the reporting implies, that doesn’t make them illegitimate.  And while some journalists try to bend a storyline to fit a particular point of view, that doesn’t make the storyline false.

But to intentionally create and propagate false storylines is wrong, in a fundamental sense.  It is not calling out poor journalism.  It is not making fun of a system of communicating with others.  It is just wrong.



1. John Young - February 3, 2018

Great point of view Peter. Could not agree more. Thank you

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