Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Written Word

Ever since I had my first newspaper column 30 years ago, I have been aware of the importance of the printed word.  Everything you read whether in a newspaper, on a clothing label, cereal box or a blog, has the ability to influence your life.  People generally believe that what they read is true.
I once wrote a column about dandelions and snagged nylons.  I said that as there didn't seem to be anything we could do about either then we should embrace them.  Instead of spending time and money eradicating those pretty little yellow weeds, we should call them flowers and let them flourish like cheerful lawn decorations.  I went on in much the same vein about runs in nylons being a fashion statement instead of a disaster.  This, of course, was all meant to be funny and I think the majority of readers took it that way.  However, I happened to overhear a couple of ladies commenting on the article and they thought that, because it was in a newspaper, it was a serious suggestion.
Journalists seem to have more influence than most writers possibly because they are reporting on the news and readers believe that what is written is only a factual account of an event.  Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.  Newspapers often have a political or other bias. 
Novels can also wield a lot of power.  I wonder how many children developed a sympathy for horses after reading Black Beauty or came to admire dogs from Jack London's Call of the Wild?  How many people are anti-hunting because of Bambi? Books on child rearing techniques, how mankind originated, and racial profiling can affect people for generations.
What ever you read, it is important to remember that, in most cases, the words are the opinion of one person.

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