This morning I heard from an aspiring biographer with no better sense than to ask for my thoughts.
In the book he has under way, he attempts a psychological diagnosis of an historical figure. For a mental health professional, that’s already a risky proposition. For all but the most versed layperson, it can border on foolhardy. Worse, the American Psychological Association is considering retiring the diagnosis the writer came up with. They’re beginning to suspect it isn’t a thing.
All of which I pointed out.
The aspiring biographer was grateful for the tip. “Thanks,” he said, “I had no idea. I’ll do more research and fix that.”
Har! Just kidding. What he really said was, “I’m not a professional. These are my opinions. I urge readers to draw their own conclusions.”
Without realizing it, he had just defended perpetrating fake news. With bit of tweaking, his statement could be a slogan for Fox News or One America News Network.
I agree that writers can and should opine. But facts are not matters of opinion. I believe that writers have a responsibility to check and double-check anything they present as fact.
Moreover, writers must exercise caution when it comes to opining outside their respective areas of expertise. It’s wiser, more responsible, to quote, with attribution, experts from the field in question.
And, it should go without saying, it is imperative to be sure that quoted experts really are experts.
I hope he heeds the advice. No matter how well-intended, the world doesn’t need another Fox, OAN, Beck, Limbaugh, or Rogan.
... where I share thoughts about writing. I don’t consider myself a writing authority, but that doesn’t keep me from presuming to blog like one. Oh, and I reserve the right to digress when I feel like it.