We talked briefly Tuesday about the challenge of vetting sources. I said a website called SourceWatch can sometimes be helpful, though it does have a progressive tilt.
Recently, Mediashift published a piece I really like. In it, John McManus, writes about the challenge of separating fact from fiction on line. He developed a checklist for journalists to use in evaluating information, and it’s an easy-to-remember acronym:
S stands for Source. Who is providing the information?
M is for Motivation. Why are they telling me this?
E represents Evidence. What evidence is provided for generalizations?
L is for Logic. Do the facts logically compel the conclusions?
L is for Left out. What’s missing that might change our interpretation of the information?
Underlying that S is an F, I think, and that stands for funding (or “follow the money”), especially when one is evaluating research. It’s also important to know whether the source has an indirect vested interest in a particular story. Or maybe it’s part of that M for motivation: Why are they telling us this? can sometimes be answered by figuring out who provided the money for a study.
I hope this helps you evaluate online sources, which can be very difficult — especially on a tight deadline.