There’s a new home for the 21st-century version of traveling medicine shows.
While researching last week’s GMO story, I was reminded just how much media has changed with the advent of the Internet. It’s the Wild West out there, with no sheriff keeping the peace. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a website is just a medicine show. The Internet is home to saints and sinners alike, and search engines lump them all together and bring them right to your computer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Google. It’s incredible to have all the world’s answers at your fingertips but – you’ve got to check those sources.
In the old days we got all our news from news companies – professionals who worked at newspapers, magazines, television networks – where there were editors and producers who had to be satisfied before a story would run. Real journalists still have to vet their stories, to double- and triple-check facts before they put them out. But that’s not true of all stuff on the Web.
Creating a website is very easy and very cheap to do. Add a high-sounding name to it, buy or write some sensational articles, and you have an instant propaganda machine. Truth is optional. The “Donate Now” button is a nice accessory, but a good con artist comes up with many ways to turn their lies into cash.
People are used to trusting words that are in print. But that’s just not a good habit for the Internet. A healthy dose of cynicism is in order, unless you know that the website you’re on still applies professional standards. There’s just too many phony news sources out there.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.