Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Source Checks Necessary

I have friends of all political stripes, spots, and blotches. I urge them: Please, folks, check your sources. Reference one or more major news outlets, no matter whether you consider them skewed to the right or the left, to see if and how they are reporting the story. Check Snopes. If it seems too good to be true, or conversely too bad to be false, it may well be unsubstantiated.

If it is a quotation--no matter how pithy or seemingly apt--from one of your favorite or least favorite people, please check to see if they actually said it, and in what context. I speak as one has been caught out herself before, reposting something that I did not check, and ending up with egg on my face. I know ours is the age of the soundbite, but the context in which someone said something is central to understanding what they said. Are these the words of a bad character in one of their novels? Or are they quoting someone else? Were they being sarcastic or sincere?

Don't be a rumormonger. Your opinions are valuable. I may not agree with them, but I want to know that you have good reasons for having them. When any of us posts fake news, we can lose the credibility that all of us earnestly seek. Beware of flashy, click bait headlines. Yes, as an historian and editor I can assure you the truth is frequently stranger than fiction, but why succumb to the medicine show allure of what is essentially the digital version of the supermarket tabloid?

Get a copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Go directly to the works of the particular author whose silhouette is emblazoned behind the words that your itching ears so long to hear. Why should you be guilty of bearing false witness, of spreading misinformation? Just because a person you like put it on their Facebook wall doesn't mean that you must. If you find out it is misattributed or outright fabricated, you can send a kindly worded, private message to the person to tell them what you discovered. Or you can simply not pass on what you now know isn't true.

If you stand up for truth, however seemingly insignificant, you are supporting your own dignity and that of other people.

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