Posted by: geonarcissa | June 10, 2009

Brantford Expositor fails at geocaching.

Yesterday I sat down at the computer and looked over geocaching news from the past few days. I stumbled upon this little blurb in the Brantford Expositor.

I’ve talked about this site before, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you have a GPS device, and want to get some exercise in a unique way try geocaching. If you go to, you can sign up for free to discover caches that are registered around you. These are literally treasures that are hidden on trails and in other nature environments. Use your GPS to find out where they are hidden and for an extra layer of fun you can also find trackable items. Geocoins and travel bugs are examples of this. When you find one of these special items in a cache, you can find out where the items have been and help in getting them off to a new destination.

No, geocaches are not “literally” treasures, so I wrote to the author, Syd Bolton, to point this out.

I saw that you recently mentioned geocaching in a piece in the
Expositor. While it’s always great to see geocaching in the news, I’m
concerned about your use of the word “treasure” to describe geocaches.
Words like “treasure” and “prize” give non-geocachers the impression
that geocachers contain items of value, making them vulnerable to
theft and vandalism. This also creates obstacles when we try to work
with land managers who are wary about letting us use public spaces for

The best way to promote geocaching is to talk about what it is without
embellishing with words that give a false impression.

Now, most of the time, these authors don’t respond at all, because they just slapped together their blurb about geocaching in order to meet a deadline and don’t really care that they’re wildly inaccurate. This guy actually responded, and seemed a little hurt that I pointed out his error.

I’ve actually spent an entire article talking about exactly what it is in
the past — so I’m pretty sure my regular readers will not misinterpret or
misunderstand what it is. Since I’ve gone geocaching myself I completely
understand what it is and how it works.

Okay… so, why did he say geocaches “are literally treasures” if he’s been geocaching and completely understands how it works? They aren’t treasures. They’re containers with log books and dollar-store toys in them. Is there a treasure-like element to them? I suppose. Are they literally treasures? No. I realize most of you probably aren’t word nitpickers like I am, but this is someone writing for a community newspaper – he should know better.

Words like “buried” and “treasure” can be PR disasters for the game. A little blurb like this can plant a seed in the mind of a bureaucrat in charge of creating policies that affect geocaching. How many square kilometres are off-limits to geocachers in Ontario because Ontario Parks refuses to work with us? That’s why I’m nitpicking the words. I wrote back to re-state my position, and to make it clear that I’m not just nitpicking his words for the heck of it.

That’s great, however, it’s not the regular readers I worry about – it’s the people who might come across the piece without previous knowledge.

Having dealt with Parks Canada, Ontario Parks, and the National Capital Commission, I know first hand that a simple term like “treasure” can really cause problems.

I realize that it’s tricky to describe the game in a few words, but “treasure” does connote a monetary value when read by a non-geocacher.

I guess this writer doesn’t think he needs to answer to anyone beyond his editor. Here’s his terse reply:

Well either way, it’s far too late now. Unfortunately, I can’t please
everyone all the time but I’ll do my best to watch my wording in the
future–if I talk about it, that is.

The veiled threat is a little on the immature side, but I gather he’s not used to having his words challenged in this manner. Anyway, I’m not out to create flame wars with the resident geeks at every small-town paper in North America, I just want to do my bit to turn the tide of unintentional bad press our game is getting because of writers who just don’t get it.



  1. Again…this is just annoying. That’s especially so because the reporter had such disregard for his profession. HE’s the one who should be nitpicking words, not you! And I don’t believe you’re nitpicking at all. You had very strong arguments, and I agree with every one of them. When I was on my internship, I always got e-mails about my stories. But I would NEVER have e-mailed my readers the way that reporter responded to you.

  2. I think he’s just an infrequent columnist – the local computer nerd. The standards at some of these local papers aren’t very high when it comes to the volunteer content. I don’t think a paid journalist would have been so defensive about a mistake.


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