Call me a stickler or a buzz-kill, but I’m not a huge fan of April Fool’s Day.
It’s not because I don’t like a good prank or a little bit of fun – NBC’s “The Office” is my favorite show. Jim Halpert had my heart from the first stapler in Jell-O. I fully appreciate humor, and the talent it takes to pull off a masterpiece deception.
I start to dislike April Fool’s Day, from a journalist’s perspective, when it starts to mislead people.
Take the article from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire above. I clicked on it, being aware of the date and knowing well enough it was probably a joke. At the end of the article, it said, “Happy April Fool’s Day!”
But here’s the problem: one, unlike what our human psychology likes to convince us, our brains do not, in fact, all think alike, and two, people don’t consistently read all the way to the end of articles, ever. This is Journalism 101. Most of the time, if you can get people to go farther than scrolling past it, that’s an accomplishment in itself.
Some people might not think this is a joke – which yes, is the point of April Fool’s Day – but then they won’t get down to the bottom of the story to find out it’s false.
I feel it is wrong for people who are trusted to be telling the truth and not delude their audiences – news outlets, public sector organizations such as universities and non-profits and politicians – to knowingly publish incorrect information. You have to understand what the significance of your name means. Someone is likely to believe your joke, if it’s coming from a source that hasn’t lied to you in the past.
That’s breaking trust with people, and leaving them to feel stupid. It’s toeing the line of bad taste, no matter what your intentions may be.
April Fool’s Day should be reserved for people to personally pull pranks and have fun. Don’t use your power as an informer of the people to poke fun at them.