One of the most wonderful things about having dogs is that we get to meet some pretty amazing people through the dogs. Whether we are just out for a walk or taking part in some organized activity like agility or training classes, there is always that affinity to other dog owners who, like us, love their animals. And we are a pretty diverse group. Liberal and conservative, old and young, every socio-economic and cultural group seems to be represented in that larger community we call “dog lovers.” As with any community in this age of social media and the Internet, we have our “writers.”
I put the term “writers” in quotes for a reason. By our everyday definition, a “writer” is anyone who “writes” something for others to read. But the general term takes on a more refined definition when we talk about Writers, Journalists, Authors, etc. These are people whom we assume have had some training and we hold them to a higher standard when reading their work. In the age of the Internet, the line between trained and untrained writers can be hard to distinguish.
Decades ago, as a college student, I was enrolled in a Media Communications curriculum with aspirations of a career in journalism or television. While I never completed that degree and went on to a career in Information Technology, I never forgot the lessons learned from many hours in lectures and doing assignments that helped me understand how to spot journalism and good writing. Having that training didn’t necessarily make me a better writer than someone else but it did make me a conscientious writer who is concerned about the craft of writing. For me, it’s not just about telling the story. It’s about telling the story well.
In the age of the Blog, anyone can publish their writing to a worldwide audience with the click of a mouse. There are sites that will give you space on the Web for free. There is, quite literally, no barrier to entry. Everyone is an Author, a Journalist, a Writer. The only way for us to distinguish between “writers” and Writers is our own experience and ability to spot people who are good at the craft of writing. And by “craft” I don’t mean that writing which appeals to us based on subject matter. Rather, writing that is well constructed and abides by rules of form that clarifies what the writer is talking about.
There is a lot of writing out there about dogs, dog training, dog behaviour, and just anything pertaining to dogs. My early media training has allowed me to spot the differences between quality essays, informative reporting, and blatant propaganda. It doesn’t matter what the particular topic might be, there are those who write well thought out and well presented pieces exploring the topic and others who are just trying to sway opinion, sometimes using the most heavy handed rhetoric they can find. But not everyone has that kind of background in the craft of writing. They read what they read and apply whatever common sense measure they have to the content.
But this is the Internet. The place where anyone can be an “expert” because that is how they choose to present themselves. There are no badges or buttons that separate the reasoned writer earnestly exploring a topic from the zealous supporter of a cause with a gift for prose. It is left to the reader to sort that for themselves. Add to this the clamor of Social Media and the ability of friends to promote the work of friends and the waters become even muddier. For someone like me with journalistic training, it can be difficult to watch the popularity of pieces written with a blatant bias that deliberately omit relevant facts and points. But that’s just me. Some people prefer to read things that confirm their beliefs rather than challenging them to examine those beliefs more closely.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of writing for Canine Nation. I’ve said some things that my readers didn’t like but are never-the-less true. I choose to present as much of the information as I can to my readers and allow them to make their own decisions. Others seem far more interested in getting readers to agree with their position by any means necessary. The world we now live in puts the burden on the reader to decide for themselves what is credible, important, or worth considering.
“Consider the source” is an old saying but it may never have been more relevant than it is today. Everyone is a “writer” and they may even want you to think they are a Writer. The old standards by which we used to make those distinctions are rapidly changing. Keep your “thinking cap” handy and read with a critical eye. There are authors who are trying to give you information and there are writers who just want you on their “side” of the issue. When I meet someone at a dog event, I would rather have a chat about something that could make us both smarter about our dogs and not just how we’re on the same “team” when it comes to ideology.