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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

Be careful of your source...

Posted 10/27/15 (Tue)

Isn’t the Internet a wonderful tool for research? It gives us so much information at our fingertips.

You can have a word or a place or thing pop into your head, Google it and “poof,” you have an explanation.

Here at the newspaper it comes in really handy for spelling words. The Internet has become my de facto dictionary.

Yes, from time to time, reporters will get stuck on spelling a word, or we wonder what is the best word to describe something in a sentence.

It’s really become quite easy to “borrow” this intelligence. As an example, I wanted to use the word tutelage in a sentence. I thought I knew what it meant so it would have sounded great in that spot.

I had heard this word before. For some reason it gets overused in the Army so I thought I could use it in a civilian context.

I was right. It essentially means authority or leadership.

But, what if I had been wrong and used it in the incorrect context? I’d probably be sweeping floors at Burger King right now.

It’s just an example of how the Internet is so handy.

Here’s another good example of pulling education right out of the sky.

On a recent trip home from Regina, we drove through the community of Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan, a little town of about 500 people near Weyburn.

As we drove through town, we noticed the streets are named after grasses, just like the town’s namesake. Rye, Brome, Wheat, etc.

When we got home, I Googled Yellow Grass and found everything I ever wanted to know about this little town on the Canadian prairie.

In addition, our host in Regina was telling us about a former minister of energy who got into a custody battle with his wife over their children and after about a year and not getting a compromise, killed his ex-wife. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

He’s out now and living in Moose Jaw, so we’re told.

OK, so that’s pretty disgusting but intriguing information. So, I Googled it and found all the information I’d ever want to know about Colin Thatcher.

The Internet is used a lot for sporting events. Some of us don’t have the luxury of cable TV so we don’t get all the sports like we used to get over the air.

Most of the major sports have gone away from network television and are now on cable.

When I’m interested in baseball scores, I just go to MLB.com and find all that day’s scores and highlights. It doesn’t replace radio or TV but it certainly provides the information sports fan need.

I would make the assumption that people use Internet for research as well. Wikipedia had a slogan at one point that said, “You’re welcome, college students.”

But we must beware of the information that lurks on the Internet. So many people get sucked into these information traps that either twist the truth or completely ignore it.

We have to be real careful about what source we are looking at. Yes, Internet is a great research and educational tool. The bad guys know that too and will often dangle those carrots out there to get us to bite.

The best example I can think of is you might see statistics on a website showing how poorly designed American cars are and that the Japanese have superior quality in their automobiles.

An opinion is one thing, but when these guys start churning out numbers, it must be true, right?

Not necessarily. If it isn’t a credible source, it really doesn’t mean anything. It would be the equivalent as the National Enquirer we see on supermarket shelves.

I’ll never forget seeing a photograph of Boy George and Michael Jackson going out on a date on the front cover of the National Enquirer, using great photography tricks.

We have to be wary of the source. Always cross reference it.

The Internet is a great learning tool, but anybody can write anything and post it or, I love this one, “publish it.”

I’d like to start a blog and write about how the French were misunderstood in World War II. That doesnt’ mean it’s fact. If it pours off the top of my head, I can write it and “publish it” on the Internet.

There are endless sources of diluted news and information that people believe. It really makes me wonder how advertisers see half truths as revenue producers.

But it’s out there and kind of reminds me of Pravda, the Soviet propaganda newspaper. It made the Russians look really good on paper, but none of it was true.