At the Jaipur Literature Festival there was a rather interesting discussion. The topic of the panel was ‘Can the Internet save books?’ The journalist moderator wondered about Internet moderation and how the lack of a gatekeeper, so to speak, might lead to a lot of irresponsible story telling.
Of course, the whole point of the Internet is that there is no gatekeeper, but I was reminded of this discussion when I logged on to Twitter from my phone this evening and noticed one of the trending topics was “RIP Johnny Depp”. Now, I found out about Michael Jackson dying via Twitter, so I was alarmed to see that another actor had seemingly hit the bucket. Then, upon further reading, I found that it might just be a rumour. (The joke’s on me, in a macabre sort of way, if, by the time this column is published, that rumour is found to be true.)
Which brings me to the point of today’s column, where I urge you to have some restraint when posting to your blog. It is hugely fun, of course, to be a prankster and play practical jokes, but sometimes, when you do them about real people, it can build up in a huge way. I am almost completely reliant on Google for all my information now. I know this is unwise and a bad move, but what can I do?
Wikipedia is even worse, with its official looking pages, and everything all neat and referenced. How can you not take that as gospel? And sometimes when you’re lazy and just surfing, you don’t bother verifying what you read. So users like OMG Facts on Twitter get retweeted hugely, because they post silly things like women who read romance novels have 75 per cent more sex than women who don’t. Is this a true fact? Who are these women? Who polled them? We have no way of knowing.
Keep it clean
Of course, the Net is usually one big old free-for-all, but if you want readers to keep returning to you instead of visiting in one big rush and never coming back again, you need to be honest and clear with your information. It has to be all either verified, or vouched for in some way. You want your readers to be able to trust you, in that you will always give them the truth, straight up. You’re a journalist too, you know, even if you don’t work for a newspaper or a TV channel.
Meenakshi writes a blog at the compulsiveconfessor.blogspot.com. Send her your queries at firstname.lastname@example.org. She wrote her column from the Jaipur Literary Festival that began on January 21 and ended yesterday