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Evaluating online sources sp13


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  • Internet amplifies everything human beings are.
  • Word coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article and the title of his 2008 book. Act of taking tasks or projects and distributing them widely with an “ open call ” for help. Poll all of your facebook friends and see what you get.
  • Makes use of group intelligence, ‘ wisdom of crowds ’ Reporters and producers are realizing they are often not the exclusive center of knowledge on a subject. Collectively, the audience knows more than the reporter does alone. Tap into the wisdom of the crowd Crowdsourcing - Act of taking tasks or projects and distributing them widely with an “ open call ” for help.
  • Be a skeptic. Every voice can be heard on the internet or attempt to be heard. Most online information is not subject to censorship.
  • Wikipedia? Twitter? Nytimes? Research on the internet requires evaluation of each of your sources. You are responsible for making sure the information you use in your reports is accurate, appropriate, current, and clear. Your credibility is at stake The Internet is an excellent source of information, but it SHOULD NOT be the only resource journalists use. = no rigorous editing, fact-checking
  • : information, persuasion, marketing commerce? Do the ads appear to bias the information? ? Distort other points of view? Will the source profit from a particular point of view?
  • Transcript

    • 1. Evaluating Online SourcesMarie K. ShanahanUniversity of ConnecticutSpring 2013
    • 2. Hierarchy of Source ReliabilityAre some sourcing methods more dependable than others?1. Face-to-face conversations2. Source (paper) documents3. Voice-to-voice conversations, Skype
    • 3. Hierarchy of Source Reliability4. Electronic documents (PDFs)5. Email exchanges6. SMS (text messaging)7. “Official” websites – businesses, government, educational institutions8. Personal websites / blogs9. Social networking websites - Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube
    • 4. The Internet "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge."— Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia
    • 5. Digital information sources  Newspaper web sites  TV websites |  Aggregators | Drudge Report, Yahoo News, Storify  Blogs  Independent/niche news sites  Social media sites
    • 6. Journalism Sourcing 2.0 Information supplied by known/official sources Unknown/unofficial/unbounded sources - Web pages - E-mail - SMS - Twitter - Flickr - Facebook - YouTube
    • 7. “Crowdsourcing”
    • 8. Image courtesy of
    • 9. Sourcing 2.0 Advantages Increase in overall reporting Unofficial sources whose reports match official sources become more reliable.
    • 10. Sourcing 2.0 Challenges Information overload How to verify information from those unofficial or computer-mediated sources.
    • 11. “Wild and Wooly” When in doubt, doubt. Anyone can put information up on the web and distribute quickly to a wide audience.
    • 12. Exercise Open Google search Type in: “aids” “women” “facts” Evaluate the page
    • 13. Search engine rankings FACT A top ranking in Google does not mean : information is more relevant or more trustworthy.
    • 14. Fake, phony, biased &premature Do not assume information is accurate, up-to-date, or unbiased. Rush to be “first” = tradeoffs. 5-40% of web accounts are fraudulent
    • 15. Evaluating Online Sources Questions to ask: Authority Accuracy Objectivity Currency Coverage Value
    • 16. Authority Who authored the information? What gives them expertise? Truncate the site’s URL or address. Check whois domain name registry.
    • 17. Accuracy Are the facts documented? Are facts and arguments supported by references to reputable sources? Does the information contradict other reliable sources?
    • 18. Objectivity What is the purpose of the website? Does the source accept advertising? Have a hidden agenda, or rigidly narrow point of view Conflict of interest?
    • 19. Currency How long ago was the page updated? Check – “The Wayback Machine” – to see how site evolved.
    • 20. Coverage Does this site address the topic you are investigating? Is the information basic or detailed and scholarly? However complex the language might be, is the information substantial?
    • 21. Value Does the site have a professional appearance? Are there words spelled wrong? Good grammar?
    • 22. Attribution and transparency  If you conducted your interview with a source over the phone – say so.  If you conducted an interview via email – source it as such.  If you grabbed information off a Facebook page and it was the basis for your report, reveal that to your audience.
    • 23. More transparency =more credibility
    • 24. Correcting Misinformation The true power of media – including public relations and advertising, rests in the ability to influence society through truth telling. You have a responsibility to correct any errors you have amplified. The work of journalists can affect people’s reputations and livelihoods.