Here are some tips for eval­u­at­ing news sources

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

On the first re­search pa­per I ever wrote, I was told to write down the call num­bers of books I needed on an in­dex card, find them, then pho­to­copy the ap­pli­ca­ble pages.

There were no doubts in my mind or in my teach­ers’ minds that the in­for­ma­tion I found was qual­ity and re­li­able.

After all, the pub­li­ca­tion process for a ref­er­ence book is rig­or­ous.

Now, with so much more in­for­ma­tion eas­ily and quickly ac­ces­si­ble on­line, we must judge every piece of in­for­ma­tion with greater scru­tiny. Any­one can pub­lish any­thing on­line with­out any kind of qual­ity as­sur­ance.

The in­for­ma­tion avail­able to us of­fers many ben­e­fits and dis­ad­van­tages.

The dis­ad­van­tages of the non-cu­rated in­for­ma­tion can even be seen on the let­ters page of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent.

Blog posts or opin­ion-based pieces of writ­ing should not be passed off as facts.

Be­ing able to crit­i­cally an­a­lyze sources of in­for­ma­tion is a cru­cial skill in the in­for­ma­tion age. Now, stu­dents are taught how to find in­for­ma­tion and judge whether it is re­li­able and trust­wor­thy. For those of us who grew up be­fore or dur­ing this in­for­ma­tional tran­si­tion, it seems those lessons were lost on some folks.

When read­ing some­thing on­line, all should take note of if the piece is branded as fact or opin­ion.

For ex­am­ple, in the print and on­line pages of this news­pa­per, opin­ion pieces are on this page and on a ded­i­cated page on­line. They are not passed off as news pieces.

If a news source doesn’t clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween news and opin­ion and/or they don’t iden­tify their au­thors, pro­ceed with great cau­tion.

Se­cond, an­a­lyze the qual­i­fi­ca­tions and po­ten­tial bi­ases of the writer. A quick Google search can help find this in­for­ma­tion. Is the writer try­ing to sell you some­thing?

Where and how did the author learn about this topic? This ques­tion is more to find out whether the writer is re­ally the best per­son to learn from. I’d rather learn from some­one knowl­edge­able than a key­board war­rior writ­ing a blog post.

Then, an­a­lyze the sources the writer uses. Sources must be cited. Do they rely on blog posts, so­cial me­dia posts, sources only from one per­spec­tive, anony­mous sources or poorly-con­ducted or bi­ased stud­ies or polls? If so, pro­ceed with cau­tion.

Ask why the writer is writ­ing the piece.

Are they writ­ing be­cause they are up­set or try­ing to con­vince oth­ers of their opin­ion? Or, are they writ­ing to in­form?

Opin­ion pieces can be help­ful to un­der­stand a va­ri­ety of per­spec­tives but should not be your main source of fac­tual in­for­ma­tion.

Good news pieces will in­clude the opin­ions of mul­ti­ple sides of an is­sue with­out in­sert­ing the writer’s own opin­ion.

A pro­fes­sor once told me that the mark of a good jour­nal­ist is the abil­ity to ac­cu­rately quote some­one they dis­agree with. If you can clearly find out the per­sonal opin­ions of the writer of some­thing des­ig­nated as a news piece, pro­ceed with cau­tion. Sadly, I’ve of­ten seen per­sonal opin­ions passed off as news in sev­eral “news” out­lets in our lo­cal area. Lastly, an­a­lyze your own bias. What ex­pe­ri­ences and knowl­edge do you have which cloud your abil­ity to look at an is­sue from both sides? Are you will­ing to read the per­spec­tives of peo­ple you dis­agree with or are you only look­ing at sources to sup­port your own opin­ions?

These tips are just some of the most com­mon er­rors I see and this is not an ex­haus­tive check­list.

For more tips on eval­u­at­ing sources, Poyn­ter and Cor­nell Univer­sity Dig­i­tal Lit­er­acy Re­source’s Eval­u­at­ing Web Re­sources check­list are good re­sources.

Think be­fore you read. Think be­fore you click “share.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.