Carroll: The Internet makes us all fools, not just on April 1
Above the Fold
Today’s that one day of the year where we at The Aspen Times are resigned to the fact that we have no chance in hell at being as entertaining as our cross-town rivals at the Aspen Daily News.
The Hopkins Avenue newspaper will dumb itself down to the Aspen Daily Planet and make a mockery of all things Aspen. Having “worked” on nine of those editions myself, I realize how difficult it is to be clever under the pressure of a deadline.
Over the years, the Daily Planets have been filled with duds and zingers, and in the aftermath there will be either a trickle or barrage of letters from outraged readers troubled that the Daily News could stoop so low in its April Fools’ edition.
Not all reporters have been on board with this annual production, as at least three Daily News writers over the years opted out because they felt the parody violated their journalistic principles. Or perhaps they just copped out because they didn’t want to suffer from a five-star hangover the next day, or maybe they wanted to play hooky so they could go skiing. Whatever — usually when I read the Daily Planet, I finish smiling (even that year they lampooned me — must have been a slow satire week).
Today’s Daily Planet editions will vanish from newspaper racks before the lunchtime fire alarm, but we’re living in an age where hoaxes and parodies are commonplace on the Internet everyday.
The Washington Post reported this week that, “In the purer days of yore, April 1 marked a once-in-a-year-opportunity to print whoppers in newspapers and tell your children that penguins can fly. But pranksters hardly need an annual indulgence for their hijinks anymore: On the Internet, every day is April Fools’ Day.”
That’s in part, the Post said, because “The Web incentivizes page views, no matter how they’re racked up. So hoaxes are hatched not only by lone pranksters but also by Web-savvy marketers and public-relations firms eager for attention. They’re often propagated by journalists hungry for clicks. Then they’re swallowed whole by an audience drowning in so much information that only the truly crazy stuff stands out.”
But it’s not the hoaxes and satirical articles that can be deemed “truly crazy stuff.” The onslaught of misinformation in politics and news — and it comes in equal doses from both the left and right — is what’s really difficult to sort out. Be it climate change or our ongoing search for President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and the Malaysian aircraft, there’s so much misinformation in cyberspace that in order for us to get to the truth, we must do our own investigating or rely on traditional news sources — unless you lack any trust in the “lame-stream media.”
Yes, we live in a generation in which writers, bloggers, journalists and others have this collective focus to get the most “likes,” “recommendations” and “retweets” in order to feel that their work is validated or to reap the monetary benefits that come with a high volume of clicks.
That’s unfortunate, because facts used to have power. Now speculation and distortion reign supreme. And, of course, one day a year in the Aspen Daily Planet — with a few hearty chuckles.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.