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Clean Writing: Avoid the Muckrakers and the Mob

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. We often view those on the con side as standing on the wrong side of the fence. Some artless writers find solace in stirring the pot, pitting one side against the other.

These mudslingers, attempt to pass themselves off as journalists. They add fuel to every fiery issue in the news. They whip up social media communities into frothing, frenzied mobs. These manure spreaders plow through the lives and reputations of their prey with no care for the damage they leave in their wake.

Let these simple strategies help you wade through the mire.

  1. Read beyond the headlines. Clickbait is like a weed on the web these days. Sensational headlines mean to foment your anger as well as lead you to a dead end.
  2. Know who your sources are. For instance writer, Andy Borowitz, writes satire for the New Yorker magazine and site like The Freewood Post and the Onion are total satire. However, not every parody or satire site is clearly marked as such. More to the point, not every website that purports to deliver the news is credible. To paraphrase an old rule of thumb, "if it seems too outrageous to be true, it probably is ."

  3. When in doubt, find out if you are reading bona fide news by doing a simple search on your subject matter. You can put almost any search term into Google and come up with relevant answers. Check to see what other media says about the subject.

  4. 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 is timeworn to raggedness.
  5. Before you publish, check your facts. When in doubt ask a credible fact checker. Snopes, Factcheck.org, Politcus, and others .

This world of instant communication makes it difficult to find the line between truth and fantasy. These simple strategies will help you get the true story.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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