Truth in the Era of the Internet

userpic=repeastWhile eating my lunch today, I’ve been thinking more about the situation that happened last week with Repertory East Playhouse (REP) in Newhall. Today’s thinking was prompted by a discussion yesterday on a Fox 11 interview that the two primary actors involved gave. This interview was softer on the REP than previous interviews, and some opined that this issue would calm down and go away. I countered that, alas, with the Internet, nothing goes away. Potential future patrons and actors will grep google the REP, and find these stories. I pointed out that we needed to get ahead of the stories — to ensure that reports on the incident are fair. The actions to take, however, don’t just apply to REP — they apply to anyone who has been the subject of an Internet smear campaign.

Here’s what I think should be demanded — and note that I’m not demanding that anyone change their opinion:

  1. Sites presenting information about what happened should not depend only on the accusers for their information. They should attempt to get information and reports from all sides, and present that information so that readers may draw their own conclusions. If you are reading a “news site”, and the information is only from people on one side of the spectrum/issue, that news is not unbiased. With respect to the REP incident, my first post has been edited to provide quotes from those very familiar with the REP, as well as links to the news articles that present well the accusers side.
  2. Review sites, such as yelp, should only accept reviews from people that know the institution personally. Third-party or hear-say reviews should be rejected. When reading a review site, ask yourself if the author of the review is making clear they have been to the venue in question.

So what should the REP do to preserve their, ahem, REPutation on the Internet? Simple — enforce the two requirements above. First, to those news sites and blogs posting only one-sided accounts, request that they present the other side. You might not be able to change the conclusions they draw, but at least you can get a balanced presentation of the facts. Second, to those sites that accept ratings (Yelp, Google), confirm that the terms of service require those writing reviews to have actual experience with the site being reviewed. If that requirement is there, ask the review site to take down any reviews of REP from people who have never been to the REP.

A last thought (gee, I sound like Jerry Springer): Let’s not focus on “What went wrong?”. Let’s focus on “How can we do better?”

In the end, we don’t want to deny people the rights to their opinion. Your opinion, after all, is your opinion. But we can ask that you consider all the facts when making it, and those facts must be based in reality, not stories.