Free Minds Online
Think Before, During, and After You Read
Don't just question authority. Question everything.
slush pile: n. the unsolicited manuscripts an editor reads to find the items she judges fit to print.
The Internet is the biggest slush pile ever created.
And you are your own editor.
The advantage of this is, nobody else is filtering what gets to you; you make your own choices about what to read and what to believe.
The disadvantages are:
- The mass of material can be overwhelming.
- The source of what comes across your screen is often even more anonymous than the sources of National Enquirer articles. Even when there's a name, you don't know this person well, you haven't seen them around the office and learned just how honest they are: it can seem like a crap shoot choosing who to believe.
- How do you crosscheck a report from Abu Somewhere, Afghanistan, anyway?
- All this analyzing, crosschecking and verifying takes time, and if you stay online five more minutes your family is going to stage an intervention.
Nonetheless, many people do find their way past the potholes on the Information Highway. We find good, useful data and don't often get bitten by hoaxes (although, True Confession Time, I too was one of those who forwarded the great "Kurt Vonnegut" speech -- the one he never made.)
This page is created to help share guidelines on identifying truth from lies from just plain silly; to share pointers to sites that help do that, and sites that most have us have found to have consistently factual info; and to discuss guidelines for being responsible journalists and editors ourselves.
Because in this World Wide Forum, we are the media.
A useful site to start with: truth, lies, and the Internet on CNET.
Some standards of my own (Anitra Freeman speaking):
- Check whether the author has identified the source of her information, with enough detail that you can find the source and check the data yourself.
- Ask the old journalism questions: Who, What, When, Where. If the story has no concrete details for those, it is suspect. "A man on a Paris beach burst into flames one morning last week" gives you no possible way to check up on the information, and is therefore safely categorized as tripe.
- Never trust anyone who says she is unbiased. Only trust people who let you know their biases up front.
- Always check everything important with at least two sources who have opposite biases. Play them off against each other and see what sorts out in the middle.
Bill Yerazunis adds: "Books are good, research papers are fine, but if you get the chance, run the experiment anyway and see what results you get."
Your turn! Your choice!
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Other Related Forums:
OneWorld Discussion Forum -- activist forum discussing a world of issues.
alt.thebird.copwatch newsgroup discussion and reporting of police brutality
alt.thebird newsgroup discusses a wide range of issues.
Archived mailing list sites:
Homeless People's Network
Food Not Bombs
The financially challenged have the advantage of qualifying for an online writing workshop where we discuss these and other matters. To subscribe to StreetWrites online workshop, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to start a workshop of your own, email me. I'll give you whatever help I can.
Updated October 14, 2002
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