Dec 112013
 
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The Internet and information: Has a desire for speed led to short-cuts on fact-checking?


The Internet has given us a world of information at our fingertips. It has also given us a world of misinformation.

As a “snowbird” living most of the winter away from my northern home, the Internet allows me to stay in touch with friends and family back home and keep up with local news. As a traveller, I use the Internet to plan trips and discover places to visit. As a writer, I rely on the Internet as a research tool.

I value what the Internet has to offer and can’t imagine my life without it anymore. In addition to the information it provides at our fingertips, it allows us to connect with people across the globe and discuss things that matter.

I am also acutely aware I cannot believe everything I read online. It is easy to post information on the Internet. No curator vets and edits content to ensure accuracy. Sometimes inaccurate information gets repeated on what are otherwise reliable and reputable sites.

The Internet has changed the way news is reported and received. Everyone is now a reporter. We learn instantly about events occurring on the other side of the world. The ability to know so much so quickly is amazing, but there have been side effects. Professional journalism faces increased pressure to get the news out quickly and to create story headlines that will be noticed. This pressure sometimes leads to shortcuts on fact-checking, and a reliance on speculation. Minutes after a tragedy has occurred, you turn on your television and find a reporter interviewing an expert. The expert speculates about the event and what led up to it, without knowing the particular situation and before all the facts have been uncovered.

Although rumour, unfounded allegations, and untruths can now circulate around the world quickly and easily, there are many credible and reputable sources of information on the Internet. To separate the wheat from the chaff, each of us needs to read with a critical eye. This applies to print media as well as digital media. If it sounds incredible, a little off, or as if there must be more to the story, maybe further investigation is needed before believing and blindly rebroadcasting to your social networks.

We need to call out and challenge the information we know is wrong. We should demand thoroughness and solid fact-checking from our journalists and reporters.

  One Response to “Information Please: Fact or Fiction”

  1. In my work, I find that many people get their beliefs and science from “youtube.” Often the information has no basis in science and is really just an opinion.

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