It’s been said if you repeat a lie often enough people will eventually come to believe it. Sadly, that’s become a common truth in the Facebook age.
My very first newspaper byline appeared in 1984, and I continued working as a “stringer” through college, taking photos at local events and covering town council meetings on Long Beach Island. After college, I talked my way into a local radio gig in Ocean County where I spent several years as part of a large news and promotions team that won several broadcast awards.
Sadly, that locally owned newspaper was gobbled up by a major corporation and mostly stripped of local content, while that local radio station which once operated a 24-hour in-house local news department is now owned by one of the nation’s larger AM/FM operating companies and no longer broadcasts round-the-lock news.
So yes, before I dropped out of New York City media in the early 2000’s I was part of the mainstream news environment. Upon joining The Fisherman in 2002, I felt I had finally found my life’s niche, digging deeply into recreational fishing issues as a journalist while helping bring the latest fishing reports, tactical advice and new product news to local fishermen.
In the past 20 years, regional newspapers that once offered extensive fishing coverage have been greatly pared down. As for covering local meetings of angling importance – like the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council – with few exceptions you won’t find many official press badges in the audience. While I might not have a fancy press credentials, I consider it my duty to attend every meeting I possibly can – except on November 4th when I was chasing stripers in the Park – and to publish information in a balanced fashion, just as I was taught on a local level nearly 40 years ago.
Do I have a little bias as an angler myself? Of course, but I’m presenting news to a fishing audience, so delving into issues impacting fish, fishermen and the fishing industry is part and parcel of the job as managing editor of The Fisherman. Do I lie? Absolutely not! Granted, I may make a mistake or two along the way, but when it’s pointed out I’m happy to publish a retraction or correction. But lying to readers or knowingly presenting misinformation and falsehoods would be a dereliction of my duties as an outdoor journalist.
I bring this up because I’ve received a number of messages from friends who’ve stumbled upon comments in remote, private areas of Facebook’s sleazy underbelly, one in particular calling me out by name for “trying for years to mislead the general public by continually putting out misinformation, questioning valid studies, and putting the seeds of doubt in people’s minds” regarding striped bass. Because this rather slanderous comment is seen only by a small, exclusive cabal of friends, it’s mostly inconsequential. But it brings to light a problem within any journalistic community today that reporters are pretty easy to cancel out.
The “fake news” strategy is not owned by either side of the political spectrum, but instead has been adopted by any group in need of an ideological weapon to bolster the importance of their own positions, the basic premise being to kill the other messengers so that you own the message. It’s not really “seeds of doubt” that propagandists hate, it’s the fear of seeing printed the side of the story they don’t wish to be printed.
This is my final weekly editor’s log of 2021, as we close another annual chapter of The Fisherman Magazine. We’ll be back with weekly digital editions in April, and so will my weekly editorials. Until then my friends, it’s up to you to decide – read or not read, accept or don’t accept, whatever facts are presented before you. And then, simply turn the page.