I’d like to share a recent observation and its relation to false news and modern reporting. In this world of instant narrative commentary being shared to the very palms of consumers, the need for accuracy has never been greater.
The illustration I use is a very simple one and is a result of the recent Wimbledon tennis match between Serena Williams and Alison Riske. Ms Riske was interviewed before the match, it was a really good interview and she came across as an open and engaging young woman.
She explained how she hated being told to practice and train by her father but was now enjoying the game and her success. She further explained that her father was ex-secret service on the Presidential detail and had been an FBI investigator. It painted a picture of a strict father, highly self disciplined, and during a discussion about her fiancées first meeting him, potentially quite a daunting man. It was also clear that she has a great relationship with him.
The key piece of information in the context of this piece was she mentioned that as a public servant her dad retired when she was as only five and he was looking for something to fill his time, she became that project.
All of which gave me an interesting and engaging back story to take to the impending match with Ms Williams. As with so many things any engagement with the participants adds to the viewers enjoyment, I know about Ms Williams and now i knew about her opponent.
It was a good match and after a great fight Ms Williams prevailed. I hope Mr Riske was not too hard on his daughters loss as it was excellent performance.
What really interested me was a comment made by the match commentator. He said,
“of course her dad gave up everything to coach his daughter.”
This would appear to be mis-interpreted piece of information. It may have come from another source and he was simply repeating what he believed. However, it came to be it gives Ms Riske’s backstory two entirely different angles. One the doting father enduring hardship to coach is daughter, the other a father who having retired early and possibly a bit board had decided, perhaps inspired by Serena’s own story of home schooling and parental coaching, to fashion his daughter into a star of the sport.
These are two entirely different stories, in the grand scheme of things probably only matter to Ms Riske and her immediate friends and family. But imagine if these two narratives were played out during the Bay of Pigs, the current Iran, UK and USA axis of tension, or at any time in the Brexit negotiations. Where a potentially benign situation is made toxic because of simple inaccurate representation of the facts.
As we all share and comment on everything from our best friends last meal, to the resignation of the UK’s ambassador to the USA we need to interrogate our reasoning, our arguments or our interpretation to ensure they represent reality, truth and have integrity. It is time consuming and requires thought in place of a mouse click on share. I fear that thought is being lost as the ease of commentary becomes ever simpler and ultimately thoughtless.