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Deb Geisler
debgeisler
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May 2014
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Deb Geisler [userpic]
What is a reliable source? A rant before shopping...

/screed on

To about 98% of the internet:

A "reliable source" that makes me want to believe some scientific breakthrough, some medical miracle, some controversial claim, some otherwise unbelievable thing...well, that source is:

  • free from bias
  • expert in the area being discussed
  • current
  • limited in scope
  • one with a proven track record
  • What are *un*reliable sources? In the last 24 hours, I've seen people herald all sorts of things on the basis of a single source that fails the tests above.
  • The New York Post is not a reliable news source for anything.
  • Mother Jones is not a reliable news source for a story "proving" that fracking is causing tremors. (Look, I actually believe that fracking is horrific and dangerous...but find me a reliable source.)
  • Faux (okay, Fox) News is not a reliable source for anything.
  • If it's only at The Daily Kos? It's not something you should be reporting.
  • Wikipedia is a great tool, but it is not a reliable source. Wikipedia pages are far too easy to change. How do you know you're hitting the page at the one time that it is completely correct? Answer? You don't.
  • If you're reporting on a scientific breakthrough you allege is in Science, then by gosh link to the original article. And, while you're at it, read the original article. If you can't understand it, why on earth do you assume that the under-paid reporter at the Washington Times (which is also not a reliable source for other reasons) understood it?

    If the Boston Marathon bombing situation taught us nothing else, it proved that far too many people (including "professionals" in journalism areas)(yes, I'm looking at you, CNN) did a damned poor job of evaluating the sources of information in which they were placing their trust.

    Don't be part of the problem. You have the damned Interwebs at your fingers if you're reading this. Use them.

    /screed off

    Comments

    The Fracking/earthquakes story was on the BBC today, and they got it from this article: Enhanced Remote Earthquake Triggering at Fluid-Injection Sites in the Midwestern United States, in the latest issue of Science. It's actually about something much more interesting than just earthquakes being caused by fracking. The authors note that tremors elsewhere, even rather a long way away, can trigger ones in fracked (and other fluid-injected) areas, and explains why they think that is.

    Is that a good enough source?

    You'll note that I specified above that, if someone was claiming there was a breakthrough and it was in Science, then they should link to the original article - not, as one person on a news aggregator did, to a secondary source (Mother Jones) known to have a particular set of biases.

    So yes, I have no problem with the BBC coverage, since they specifically referenced the article in Science. I'm just damned tired of people who are "news" site gatekeepers basing claims on secondary or tertiary sources without looking at original sources or doing any bit of fact-checking or verifying.

    And when it comes to evaluating the relative merits of various sources, as you have done, I would consider you an excellent authority!

    One slight disagreement. Fox news is a reliable source of a different point of view. For the same reason, I used to read the christian science monitor so I would have an alternative set of biases from the Boston Globe on the various news stories of the day.