Wick Communications

Check it out first

In journalism, Uncategorized on 28 May 2010 at 9:10 am

In the summer of 1997, folks were busy forwarding a commencement address supposedly delivered by author Kurt Vonnegut to the graduates of MIT. It was terribly clever. It implored the newly minted adults not to save the world, but to wear sunscreen. It was kind of brilliant.

It was not, however, delivered by Vonnegut. The actual commencement address that year was given by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan – which is pretty cool in and of itself. But he probably was not as funny as Vonnegut would have been.

Turns out the “address” was written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, who was fantasizing about the commencement address she would write if she were ever asked to do so.

A whole lot of people believed Vonnegut wrote it. To his fans, it seemed like something he might write. So convinced were they that some in the newspaper business repeated the hoax, attributing the address to the famous author…

They should have checked it out first. And that’s what I’m imploring you to do – before you pass on some tidbit of wisdom that has been shuffled on to you.

If I were giving a speech to graduating journalism students my advice would go something like this:

Newspapering requires critical thought. Question not only authority by the authenticity of things. If you see it on the Internet, consider the source. Don’t believe everything you read. And you should probably wear sunscreen.



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