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Clean Writing: How to Avoid the Muckrakers and the Mob

by Linda Jenkinson |

angry mob cartoon

There are two sides to every issue, pro and con. The phrase comes from the Roman, pro et contra, meaning for and against. Funny thing is, whichever side we are on, we tend to believe we are on the pro side. It is easy to become antagonistic towards the cons, to believe the worst about the issue as well as the people on that other side.

Some blogs, passing themselves off as news sources, are written by mudslingers and manure spreaders. These muckrakers add fuel to every fiery issue on the web, whipping up social media communities into frothing, rabid, frenzied mobs. Instead of tools for building, these predators use their exploitive exposés to tear down and destroy the lives and reputations of their prey.

These simple tips will keep your writing clean.

  1. Read beyond the headlines. Clickbait is like a weed on the web these days. Virulent headlines are meant to foment your anger as well as lead you to a deadend.
  2. Know who your sources are. For instance, satirical writer, Andy Borowitz, writes for the New Yorker magazine. The Freewood Post is a complete website of parody and satire on today's current issues.
    However, not every parody or satire site is clearly marked as such and, more to the point, not every website that purports to deliver the news is credible. Remember the old rule of thumb, "if it seems too good to be true,it probably is too good to be true." Change the word "good" to "outrageous".
    When in doubt, find out if you are reading bona fide news simply by doing a search on your subject matter. You can put just about any search term into Google and come up with relevant answers. Check to see what other media says about the subject.
  3. Check the dates on your information. The same old chestnuts keep surfacing on the Internet year after year. In some, the situations have changed but the pictures and the captions remain the same. Others hang out laundry that was dirty in its time, but has been washed to raggedness over the years.
  4. Before you publish, check your facts. When in doubt ask a credible fact checker. Snopes, Factcheck.org, Politcus, and others .

While you probably can't avoid the muckrakers, these few simple strategies will help you make sure you don't end up as an embarrassed member of their mob.


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