Road to Discovery of Truth Is Paved With Evaluating Sources and Fact-Checking
This post applies Mike Caulfield’s strategies of web literacy to examine the reliability of web content, and is followed by reflections on web sources.
The exercise that we chose to do from the Mike Caulfield’s Four Moves blog is about John Lennon. Our task was to determine whether the photo in question actually shows John Lennon signing an album for Mark Chapman, the man who would kill him later that night.
The first step was to take the only piece of information that we had, which was the photo, and do the Google Image Search. This led us to the article published by The Guardian, in which we discovered some basic information about the day he was murdered, and, most importantly, the name of the photographer who took the photo – Paul Goresh. After finding this out, we decided to do more research on him. We came upon various articles published by a number of different sources which were unfamiliar to us, so we decided to dig a little deeper and try and find some sources that we knew were reputable. In doing so, we came across an article published by The Independent, which credits Goresh for the photo.
Then, we wanted to further research the killer himself, and we managed to find a youtube video in which he recalls that entire day, Lennon signing his copy of the album, and his exchange with Goresh. Wanting to explore every side of the story, in order to be objective, we decided to research on what Goresh had to say about that day. We only managed to find one websitewhich provided us with a completely different story from Goresh’s point of view. Even though we can’t vouch for the credibility of this website, they both acknowledge the fact that this event did occur.
Eventually, while trying to prove the validity of the photograph, we stumbled upon an article titled For sale: The last photos of John Lennon – negatives and ©, which referred us to a different site on which we found out about the existence of around dozen negatives taken by Goresh on that same day.
In the end, after examining all the evidence, we concluded that the John Lennon was indeed photographed with his killer only hours before his murder.
Why do we trust some sources more than others?
Since we live in the digitally most advanced age there is never a lack of news sources. But we are facing another issue – distinguishing between those sources that are trustworthy and those that are not.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about online sources or good old-fashioned newspapers, the underlying premise is the same, and that is that they all are biased to some extent. Therefore, the news tends to be presented from a particular perspective that a source represents. The environment in which we grew up shapes us and largely impacts the way we think of or perceive certain sources. So, naturally, people are going to side with those sources that express, more or less, similar beliefs and viewpoints, and dismiss those that oppose them.
Ultimately, trusting a source depends heavily on our own opinions and beliefs. However, educating and familiarizing ourselves with certain topics, as well as comparing how several different sources covered the same piece of news can be a good way of determining the credibility and reliability of a source. This is becoming more and more difficult to do since social media and other online media outlets have made it possible for anyone to publish anything and everything. Although, it is important to keep in mind that just because we trust a source doesn’t necessarily mean that it is reputable, and that those sources that we are unfamiliar with should be so easily disregarded.
How do we make sure we are not excluding valuable sources? What are the dangers of a diet of news from only one type of source?
It is no wonder that in the contemporary world, where we have so many options, one has to find a few sources which are trustworthy enough to be used on a daily basis. On the other hand, when we become used to a certain source, we start to accept everything we read blindly and we don’t even question the information we’re receiving. Relying on just one source can seriously cloud our judgment and if we get too comfortable with it, we will not be able to see the situation from an objective viewpoint. We have so many different options available at the click of a button and, despite that, most of us choose one or two of them that we have encountered previously or that have proven to be satisfactory in the past. We have to be open-minded and try to gather as many possible perspectives, and not limit ourselves because we might miss out on so much intriguing and valuable information. Even if our own beliefs or viewpoints differ from what we may encounter on certain websites or in newspapers, we can never dismiss opinions unlike our own just because we don’t agree with them. By investigating a story and exploring different options when it comes to online and traditional sources, we use our own mind and critical thinking much more, while also developing skills of discerning which sources are valuable and trustworthy and which are not to be trusted.