Fool me once, shame on you

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.01.33 AM

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.

5 thoughts on “Fool me once, shame on you

  1. I agree that April Fool’s Day should be a more personal thing but in this day and age when companies, organizations, and government try to be “personable” through social media is all a part of clever Public Relations and Marketing.

    I mean it would be no different that UW-Whitewater created a video and then midway through “JOHN CENA” you.

    Although I would be extremely tilted, I think it is cool to see companies, organizations, and government be able to be interactive and two-way instead of one-way.

    • While I agree that we should be personable with our audience, I do think there’s a line between being fun and personable, and then making them feel stupid at their own expense. We have other holidays to be fun (like National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day yesterday; you don’t get more fun than that).

  2. I can’t stand April Fool’s Day either. I also agree that it should be a more personal thing. In fact some people lost their jobs because of an “April Fool’s Day prank” that Google did. Like you I don’t mind it people do it personally but when companies do it, it’s just so annoying to me. Great job on the article man

  3. There’s already enough distrust of the media. We don’t need April Fools Day to accentuate the point. I agree with you wholeheartedly. We’ve got the Onion to do this for us 365 days a year.

  4. I feel the same way. When websites do things like this it can make a part of their audience lose some trust in the website. This can leave a bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths. I believe there is a time and a place for everything and the web is not the place for this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *