How Do we Trust what we read - and share with patrons?

htp:// writes "What standards or techniques do you use to filter out Bad information from Good - when gathering information for Patrons or Work-related projects, especially current events related?
A couple of stories to consider:
Reaction: Mirror editor sacked, from the BBC, and

Daily Mirror Apologizes for Fake Photos"

Update: 05/16 11:21 EST by B: hoaxes that fooled the worldly wise British media, from The Guardian takes a look back through the decades at the issue.


We all should have learned to judge the authority of a source. Of late with the hoax pictures of prisoner abuse, plagarism, and falsifcation of stories (I'm told it is now called Blairism - a mix of plagarism and fiction.)it has become harder to rely on sources we once considered authoratative.

I think the reaction of the sources to incidents of these types is quite a good gauge of their reliability. If I recall the NYT seemed to pass the buck quite a bit before admitting Jason Blair was a fraud. In contrast the Daily Mirror admitted its mistake as soon as it was apparent and cleaned house that day.

However we must be able to judge the authority of a source before it is duped by shenanigans like we have seen recently. The same hallmarks of authority apply to any source print or electronic. A history of reliability and a lack of undesireable bias are remarkably important. We all know, or should know, that The Onion is satire, yet main stream journalists use it as a source. Every six months or so I read about some unmotivated journalist taking a lead from The Onion or some other such publication and weaving it into his own story. It is almost impossible to ascertain the authority of a brand new source, especially a website. We as librarians must use the skills we acquired in library school to filter the signal from the noise.

Epistemology: The study of how we know what we "know". Most of what we "know" we simply take for granted; there's no way anybody can have the time and energy to verify everything. It helps if you can learn how to reserve judgement and remain willing to change your mind. You should also learn how to think critically and how to analyse situtations to some depth instead of drawing conclusions from superficial examinations.

And even then it's still pretty much a crap shoot.

Pretty ironic, I think; everyone seems to agree that American society has hit a peak in cynicism and yet readily accepts the latest news release, even advertisement, as factual.

Critical thinking isn't taught in school in the US (afaik), and implies/requires skill. I think it's actually pretty well demolished by rote learning and "teaching to the test".

Skepticism would probably suffice, combined with some pat phrases like, "Do you think there could be any truth to this: [insert headline here]?", or "What proof do they have that: [ProductX Reverses Aging]"

Encourage kids to ask questions, especially the kind of infuriating open-ended ones kids seem to love. Help them track down the answer; show them you think their sense of curiousity or incredulity is important.

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