A few weeks ago, my son was working on a report for school. He showed me what information he had gathered so far, and when I questioned one of the facts he told me, “Dad, it’s ok, I found in on the internet.” Sure enough, he did, but it wasn’t a legitimate site for research, such as National Geographic. It was a site written by a fan of civil war battles. Nothing against the site or the writer, but in many cases it offered his thoughts of a battle, not the historical facts. And that’s my point, with sites like “The Onion” out there, you have to be careful what you read and believe on the internet (but definitely read “The Onion” if you don’t already – it’s hysterical).
Case in point, this week CNN anchor Anderson Cooper clearly mocked the marriage of 51 year old actor Doug Hutchison to 16 year old singer Courtney Alexis Stodden, calling critics of the nuptials “romance haters” and saying it was a good idea to have the ceremony on a Friday “so Courtney wouldn’t miss too much school.” Don’t believe me? Here’s the clip – a textbook case of satire and sarcasm.
However, the next day, a reporter for “The Daily Caller” a conservative version of The Huffington Post, blasted Cooper. The reporter, Laura Donovan started her story like this: “Unlike much of the population, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper isn’t repulsed by the nuptials of 16-year-old singer Courtney Alexis Strodden and 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison.” Clearly, Donovan missed Cooper’s joke.
Cooper was not amused, calling out Donovan and pointing out that not only did the reporter miss the point, she included a typo in the story. “By the way,” Cooper said, “her name is Stodden, not Strodden, but why quibble about facts, ‘Daily Caller?’” Cooper added, “I bet at ‘The Daily Caller,’ if someone tells a knock knock joke, everyone runs to the door to see who comes in.” Check out Cooper’s call out for yourself.
By the way, “The Daily Caller” story has been fixed, to show that Cooper was, in fact, kidding. But the bottom line here is that you need to gather facts from the internet just as you do with any other media. You must use multiple sources. In this case, if a person had only read “The Daily Caller,” they would have thought Anderson Cooper was way off base. You need to gather information from multiple sources to really get an accurate picture of what’s going on. You can’t just read one newspaper or watch one newscast and call yourself informed. Multiple sources must be read, especially when dealing with websites that aren’t official sources such as Smithsonian or National Geographic, to gather information and form an opinion. And even on official sites, you need to double check that you are gathering information from an academic source and not a column expressing a writer’s view.
The internet is an amazing resource, but it must be used wisely when using it for research. However, don’t forget about “The Onion” when you’re just looking to have fun. Here’s a teaser to get you started. Based on Cooper’s “Ridiculist” I imagine he’s an “Onion” fan himself.