Some things are objectively subjective. Is a Ford better than a Chevrolet? Is a Nikon camera better than a Canon?

One could argue the merits and demerits of most brands. But the answer lies mostly with the criteria that is important to you. 

If you’re hauling trailers with your truck, horsepower might be more important than price. For many of us, our own personal experiences with products inform our opinions. Or maybe we rely on the opinions of people we know and trust who have professional experience with the products. 

A photographer friend of mine told me he switched from Nikon to Sony. Both are good brands, but I’m loyal to Canon. 

My criteria: Durability. I’ve used all three brands professionally, but my two Canon cameras, one film and the other digital, outlasted the others. In fact, my Canon cameras have never been in the shop. Plus, I like how they feel and how easy they are to use. 

That doesn’t mean Canon is better for everybody. Every photographer’s needs are different. For probably every product out there, you could find an expert who swears by a brand. 

So which expert do you believe? My friend Lee arguably has more experience with cameras than I, but I’m no slouch. 

But this posting isn’t about cameras. It’s about information. How do we obtain information, and who should we trust?

Increasingly, many of us get our information from social media. If we compare information to cameras, should you trust my opinion more? Or should you trust Lee?

The answer for many people, sadly, is neither. They prefer to trust their friend Agnes who has never sold a print in her life. But Agnes has an opinion, and we like Agnes, so we’ll go with that. 

This subject came up in the cigar shop, where opinions breed like feral cats and are about as useful. Many of the opinions can be traced to memes on social media. They’re thin on sourcing and often easily debunked. 

That doesn’t mean those who proffer the opinions are easily dissuaded. People tend to believe what they want to believe and facts don’t matter. 

A typical discussion goes like this:A statement is made.

Who’s the source on that?

So-and-so.

Did you know that So-and-so is owned by a political group that promotes only XYZ agenda?

That doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

According to Such-and-such fact-checkers, here’s what actually happened.

Such-and-such isn’t accurate all the time. 

That’s when I dissect the issue. Let’s look at the original sources. The unedited videos. The official documents. Let’s look at the sources and their credibility on this issue. Let’s look at the words that are used that denote opinion versus fact. 

Whoa. Who says you’re an expert on fact-checking?

Well, I studied at the leading university on the subject. I’ve spoken nationally on the topic. I wrote a peer-reviewed handbook for teachers about it. I’ve published numerous articles. Plus, I’ve been in the news business for 35 years, served as an officer with the Society of Professional Journalists, am a past president of a newspaper trade organization and worked 12 years at a director level for one of the largest press associations in the country. 

Well, I got this from my friend Agnes. And Agnes knows a lot of stuff. She used to work as a paralegal in a law firm. 

That’s where we’re at. Truth versus fiction is treated like Ford versus Chevy and Nikon versus Canon. Cards versus Cubs. Republicans versus Democrats. 

Yes, cameras and cars are subjective. But the truth shouldn’t be. 

I think next time someone asks for my credentials, I’ll tell them I have an elbow that hurts when a lie is told and I have visions in my sleep. And my real name is Agnes. Then maybe they’ll believe me.

© Copyright 2020 by David Porter, who can be reached at porter@ramblinman.us. If you’d like to peruse my handbook on news literacy, it’s available for free here: https://issuu.com/illinoispress/docs/aa.newsmatters.