Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fake or Real?

Environmental & Science Literacy
Edward Hessler

Detective Sergeant Joseph "Joe" Friday was the star of Dragnet, a radio program which was later adapted for television. The catchphrase "Just the facts, ma'am" is associated with Friday.

On-line fake news, misleading stories, clickbait, hashtags, inferring news from tweets, spreading false content, etc. all are a current plague to news readers especially for those who read on the fly and find short news reports easier to read. We have moved far beyond facts and sometimes are content with this. Wynne Davis of NPR did a program, December 5, 2016 on this problem as well as how to be a self-checker of the news we consume  from these many sources.

[Image from Pixabay]

In other words, "Just the facts..." However, this short phrase is a misattribution something that is also included in the plague of fact or real. This was first said by the comedian Stan Freberg in a parody of the program as the Wiki entry linked above on Friday notes.

The program includes best practices based on suggestions by Alexios Mantzarlis who leads the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter and Professor Melissa Simdars who teaches communications and media at Merrimack College.

Davis linked a guide Simdars developed for use with her students on how to be a consumer of on-line news which also includes a bane, websites. Check it out.

I was both interested and not surprised to find a source I use frequently, always cautiously, I hope. I use it to take me to other sources and to further explore what I'm reported. I also use it to point me to cat videos and other features on animals, most of which do not seem to need fact-checking!

About HuffPo/PoHuff as I refer to The Huffington Post (and other sources) she writes, "Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources(Emphasis mine.)

It is Simdars phrase "at times" that makes these sources very problematic and also potentially dangerous because you never know which times to be cautious.

NPR's Steve Inskeep looks at this problem from another angle, noting that we've always had a problem with separating facts from non-facts. He presents a finder's guide to facts.

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