|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:
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.
Basic Information Evaluation
Some standards of my own (Anitra Freeman speaking):
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."
Virus Alerts and Charity Chain Mail
Caring is good. Caring intelligently is better.
Most con artists operate by exploiting human greed. But many hoaxers and con artists on the Internet operate by exploiting some of the best in human nature, our instinct to care for and protect each other. By exploiting and abusing this, they actively weaken our ability to care for and protect each other.
Hoax Virus Alerts are a virus in themselves, one that infects you instead of your computer, forcing you to spread it to all the people in your address book. This clogs up your friend's email boxes and makes it less likely that real Virus Alerts will be acted on. Before you pass on a Virus Alert, check it out. Better yet, instead of reacting to every individual Alert, encourage all of your friends to install basic anti-virus software and update it regularly against new viruses. Patrick Crispen's Truth about Viruses explains six rules for evaluating the validity of a virus alert, and what to do about valid one.
There are many valid Missing Child Alerts, calls for help or prayer for a sick child, or calls for action on a particular issue. There are also many such alerts that are mistaken or outright hoaxes, and many that were valid when first issued but are long out of date. One "sick child" is now in his thirties! Snopes.com offers a free searchable database where you can type in a few keywords from the email you got and check out any such alert before you pass it on.
Bad news: You cannot make money for your friends by forwarding them an email being "tracked" by AOL, Microsoft, or anyone else. Good news: Your email forwards are not being "tracked" by AOL, Microsoft, or anyone else. "Free Gift for Forwarding?" No
Evaluating Web Sources
There is an increasing amount of information posted on the Web, including how to diagnose yourself and treat any illness. What sources can you trust?
Not trusting anybody is no more intelligent than blindly trusting everybody. Fortunately, there are some guidelines for evaluating information, and the sources of information, even in Virtual where you can't watch the other fella's eyes.
The Internet provides a large an inexpensive outlet for independent media. Some traditional journalistic ethics like not deliberately falsifying information clearly apply to any media. Others, like "objectivity," are questioned. As I said in the introduction, I don't trust anyone who says they aren't biased, I only trust people who are aware of their biases and let me know what they are up front.
I prepared a proposed standard of journalistic ethics in alternative media as part of a discussion in the North American Street Newspaper Association. I welcome any comments.
We Are All the Media
As Jello Biafra once said, "If you don't like the media, become the media." Actually, on the Internet we all already are the media. We all pass information on to many people in the course of a day. The more critically we evaluate that information before we pass it on, the more ethical we will be as journalists and as friends.
Critical thinking, logic, and analyzing news sources are not, unfortunately, skills commonly taught in school. We can, however, educate ourselves. Resources on Critical Thinking
Your turn! Your choice!
Other Related Forums:
alt.thebird.copwatch newsgroup discussion and reporting of police brutality
alt.thebird newsgroup discusses a wide range of issues.
Archived mailing list sites:
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.
Anitra Freeman, Poet & Activist, my home page.
Updated December 29, 2002