Tuesday, June 6, 2006, My Turn • Trying to keep out of the mud

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, June 6, 2006 edition of the Lassen County Times.

This election campaign seems to have brought out the worst in mud slinging, rumor mongering and the usual pile of disreputable junk.

Because we here at the paper write about what’s on the public record or verified by two or more sources, we’ve done our best to keep our hip waders out of the muck. Those who write letters to the editor don’t often have the same compunction.

Others who don’t have such high standards, and some who apparently have no standards at all, have taken an even lower road.

My advice to those who have had the unfortunate displeasure of reading what’s going around the e-mail circuit, or some even less reputable forms of Internet disinformation, is to remember that those who don’t check their facts at all, or just make them up, aren’t going to be a very good source of information.

We don’t pretend to have all the facts, by any stretch. We have been known to get things wrong or misinterpret what we report. But when we find out we’ve made a mistake, we write a correction and that’s the big difference between this paper and the blogs and circulating e-mails.

If you find a particular local blog that seems to be totally out there, with no attribution for it’s facts, filled with wild, unsubstantiated rumors, you can do what I do: just don’t read it. That seems to be the worst thing to do to those who spread such refuse.

I recently took an online tutorial at Argosy University’s online syllabus at argosy-class.com. for some Internet graduate classes I’m taking. It made some interesting points about the Internet.

It said reputable book and periodical publishers employ “any number of people (content experts, editors, publishers, etc.) to review a work for the accuracy of content.”

The Internet, in contrast, “is a publication forum where virtually anyone may publish. “As such, the burden of assessing the relevance and accuracy of what you read falls to you. Verifying the quality of the information you find on the Internet takes a little extra work, but it is time you will need to spend in order to be sure that your own work is based on good critical thought.”

“Use your intuition and common sense about the soundness of information you read on the Internet,” it advised. “Knowledgeable authors will supply facts, figures, and quotes to support their claims. Be suspicious of authors who expect you to agree with their claims simply because they have published them on the Internet.”

I think that’s great advice in connection with any blog that claims to offer the truth about Lassen County issues. Check their documentation against the real reports on the public record and you may find they’ve been doctored to make a point that may not reflect the facts.

In any case there is one way to tell all the disinformers and elected officials what we all really think. It’s Election Day and I’m going to vote because I want my voice to be heard and my opinion to matter.

In the end, we can each evaluate all the junk out there and all the legitimate news and exercise our most powerful option. Vote; it’s one way to take a stand no matter what anyone trying to spin the facts may say.