I don’t think anything has changed the face of journalism more than social media. Gone are the days where your only option for hearing what’s going on with the world were the nightly news or maybe National Public Radio if you were more “in the know.” Now with Facebook and smart phones, the options for obtaining information have blown wide open. Think of how many times you’ve seen a news story that wouldn’t have even existed without a video clip from someone’s phone. Of course, the equestrian world is not sheltered from this phenomenon.
When this post on abuse in eventing blew up last week, I read it and thought this is going to blow up in a rather extreme way. And it did. I didn’t wholly agree or disagree with the contents of the post, but something made me uneasy which the Chronicle of the Horse responded to fairly articulately.
Now before I go off on the subject of this post I am writing today, I do want to make sure my criticism is directed in the right way. I believe that adult amateurs who pay the registration dues, attend the rated shows/events and compete in the lower levels are the backbone of all equestrian sports. They have worked hard and scraped pennies to get out of the unrated levels (unlike myself!) and their opinions are important. Whether a blogger or not, these riders have every right to question things in their sport that make them uncomfortable. In my opinion, they’ve earned it.
I just think it should be done carefully.
I took a journalism class in college, which taught me enough about journalism to know that I’m really not great at it. The ability to succinctly spit out facts absence of my own opinion is pretty beyond me. Why do you think I’m a personal blogger? It’s largely because I find myself pretty damn amusing, and my opinion somewhat worthy of other people reading. I can’t write posts documenting my sport without inserting my own agenda in there somewhere, even if it’s something as simple as “Colored or decorative collars on hunter jackets need to be obliterated out of the show ring!”
You’re probably thinking, “but as bloggers we never claim to be journalists you crazy person!” and that’s entirely true. However, here’s a thing about the internet that I touched on earlier – the waters are muddy now. Take this example from my Facebook feed:
The above picture was shared on my Facebook feed with a caption saying they were the twin tornadoes that touched down in Lee County during the recent central Texas storms & flooding.
There were over 2,000+ shares of this “amazing Texas storm photo”, but I immediately recognized it from Shutterstock in some searching I had done for work months ago.
And upon even further reading of the comments, found that they weren’t even real tornadoes at all. The entire thing was photoshopped.
The original poster went back and edited the caption on the image he shared, but I guarantee you there are thousands of people out there going, “Man did you see those tornadoes near Austin on Facebook?!?”
Does this have anything to do with blogging about horses? No, but it helps me to slowly get to my point.
Whether we claim to be a journalist or not, when we put something out on the internet and label it as fact people will take notice. I know everyone wants lots of blog visitors and comments, but creating content comes with a lot of power. When you publicly name someone on the internet, it’s your responsibility to garner as many facts as possible from both sides of the argument and present them in an unbiased fashion.
Maybe it’s because I’m a piddly personal blogger who covers extremely exciting topics like dog costumes and unrated 2’3″ jumper shows, but I’ve always thought name calling was a dangerous thing to do on the internet. I like asking questions, but I don’t claim to have many of the answers. Call me a coward or what you will, but I try to keep my space of the internet for insight and friendly discussion versus damnation.
I’ll leave the reporting to journalists.