I think I was vaguely aware from a Facebook post a while back that there was a Washington Post article about British twitching in the offing, but had forgotten all about it until I was alerted to it on Twitter this morning. So I had a look.
The article gets off to a bad start, as far as I’m concerned, with the title: “In Britain, bird-watching gone wild”... obviously going for the sensationalist angle here. But let’s not judge an article by its title, eh?
OK, first paragraph – a classic piece of journalistic ornithological misunderstanding: “A shorelark... took a wrong turn somewhere over Norway...” Yes, here we go, it’s going to be one of those articles. Let’s see now, Garry Bagnell – check. Lee Evans – check. Adrian Webb – check. “Judge, jury and executioner” – check. Actually, do I need to read any more of the article? I’ve seen all of this tedious ‘churnalism’ about twitching many, many times before in the British media. It’s almost as if the big egos of British twitching have finally realised that they can’t get away with this sort of thing in the UK press any more, so have decided to foist all their nonsense on an unsuspecting American public instead.
And then there are the usual wild and self-aggrandising exaggerations from El Presidente: “Over the years, Evans has wracked up big legal bills defending himself against allegations of slander for allegedly undercounting the tallies of rivals and questioning whether they’ve actually seen all the birds they claim”. Really? Care to give some evidence for that? Because I’ll wager whatever you like that he’s never spent a single penny in any legal action, ever. And, while we’re about it, shouldn’t it be ‘racked’, rather than ‘wracked’?
Why does this wind me up so much? As I seem to say with monotonous regularity, I’m not a twitcher, so why should I care if twitchers are constantly portrayed in the media as egotistical nutjobs? The reason is very simple. Because ‘the general public’ (broad brush, but you know what I mean) does not differentiate between ‘twitchers’ and ‘birdwatchers’, and is easily led to believe that ALL birdwatchers are like this. You only have to look at the comments that always appear on this type of article to realise that (as previously satirised on this blog here).
And I worry that in turn this feeds back into general public apathy, or even antipathy towards birds, wildlife and conservation in general. So these sensationalist tabloid articles do us all (and ultimately the birds themselves) a huge disservice. I don’t really expect anyone to take any notice of anything I say, but to any twitchers – if a journalist asks you for an interview or comments for any article about twitching, please, for all our sakes, just say no!!