The freedom to share an opinion on a mass scale used to come with more responsibilities. There was a responsibility to inform and not to mislead. If you did too much of the latter, often the platform on which you preached would fail after the money to maintain it ran out.
Folks who read your stuff or listened to it would stop because it was a waste of their time or insulted their intelligence. When you lost their attentions, you lost the advertisers who paid you to let them hang around. That is mostly how the media works.
At The Western Producer, we work hard to deliver the truth and invest heavily in professional journalists to meet what we expect are your information needs. So far in our nearly 100 years of business, you and your forbearers have chosen to provide us your money and your time, more so than any other information provider in our industry.
There were always media out there that would preach to the converted: some publications and talk-radio shows. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone knows what kind of information is being sold and how much salt should be served with it.
The internet has meant everyone could be a mass-scale publisher: no presses, radio station or pricey journalist investments required. As a result, preaching to the converted got louder.
Now anyone can help the average consumer develop a hate for glyphosate or genetic modification using a nearly free website.
And the big boys haven’t failed to get in on the alternative-truth action of looking for vulnerable congregations. Fox in the United States has become the Republican state broadcaster and propagandist. And the New York Times has been allowing its credibility to be undermined by some of its regular columnists.
While genetic modification and glyphosate have been recent Times targets, the insecticide chlorpyrifos is its latest anti-science focus. Journalist and Times opinion writer Nicholas Kristof has tied the chemical’s origins to Nazi Germany and its risk to children. This is despite American, Canadian and European government agency scientists assurances of its safety.
Agriculture and food production, like many forms of reality, appears to be at risk of too many opinions and too little information.