Wick Communications

If it’s on the Internet, it must be true

In Online media on January 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about information gleaned from online sources. It may be absolutely correct in every detail. It also may be complete malarkey. It’s your job to tell the difference. In fact, in a world in which so much information is available online, this may be one of the most important tasks for journalists.

I found a fascinating discussion of this verification task here. It’s a blog published by British journalism instructor Paul Bradshaw. As you can see (and please note beforehand, he posts a photo of a profane Photoshopped photo to make a point), he categorizes the problem on three levels – content, context and code. He offers some great tips to remember when determining whether an online source is credible.

Usually, though by no means always, a savvy consumer can determine the “truthiness” of an online posting merely by noting its provenance. Where did it come from? You know you are more likely to believe the White House or the New York Times or the University of Kentucky than you are TMZ, the Onion or some random URL you’ve never heard of before. At least I hope that’s true. Bradshaw also suggests paying attention to how long the source has been blogging or tweeting or whatever. If she just started the day news broke, well, factor that into your internal believability scale…

It all goes back to confirmation and that old saw, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” It’s what we do here. It’s increasingly important now that anybody can say anything on the World Wide Web.

Clay

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