Sources, Credibility, and Social Media

This week in graduate studies my eyes have crossed ten times over due to research, covering the breadth of the First Amendment, discussion boards on the First Amendment, research, a paper on ‘Freedom of Expression’, more research, a journal assignment with the topic of the development of freedom of expression…

I’m freedom of exhausted over this week’s topic coverage.

While that’s just my ethics class (“But wait…there’s more!” Billy Mays, may he rest in peace), my Knowledge & New Media class has me focusing on credibility of resources via my newfound favorite assignment…a blog post!

I chose an article from The Huffington Post titled ‘Sea Levels Along The Northeast Rose Almost 4 Inches In Just 2 Years: Study.’ Written by James Gerken (2015), this article is packed full of data from multiple sources detailing the rise in coastal waters and the call to action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, with the estimated threat of a rise in water by 6 feet by the end of the century, which could cause city-wide flooding issues in locations such as New York.

Now, it’s time to determine the credibility of the sources referenced, and subsequently, the information.

Gerken does well to express his authority on the subject matter presented in the article, rightly so as he is the Green Editor at The Huffington Post. The article references over a handful of sources to back up the authorial claim, or in this case, call to action, which include the University of Arizona and the National Oceanic and Atmoshperic Administration, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate, Mashable, Nature Communications, New York City Panel on Climate Change, and study coauthor, Jianjun Yin.

Wow, that seems like a lot…I think the author may have been trying to make a point!

University of Arizona. Credible? Check. This is a professional educational institution poised to deliver trustworthy facts. Then there are sources that can be considered special interest groups, for instance, the New York City Panel on Climate Change and therefore tend to be biased. However, there is a good balance of source types utilized by Gerken; all supported by thorough data obtained through a study conducted by researchers from a well-known and respected university.

While this article is tied to The Huffington Post, a fairly trusted news source, it is not the only means in which to get reliable information. The Internet is an information goldmine that offers a nearly unlimited supply of knowledge, created by professionals and the novice alike. Which leads to a question posed this week: Do you trust information originating from “non-professionals” such as bloggers?

Perhaps a better question would be: Do I trust information originating from professionals?—given the latest scandals like those involving Brian Williams.

Let’s re-rail this train and get back to the point.

My answer: In many situations, yes! I’m a closet crafter (i.e., my embarrassingly obscene amount of crafts sit in a closet until a whim hits me to finally make something with them) and my latest kick is knitting.

Loom knitting (an apocalypse of yarn would take place if I attempted to use needles as well as unnecessary screaming and crying), to be precise.

I frequent several different knitting blogs and YouTube channels, some run by “professionals” others by every-day people just wanting to share their hobbies in new, expansive ways. The same can be said for blogs that cover different lifestyle diets like Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc., the content creator may not necessarily be a professional, but that doesn’t mean that the information provided is worthless, in fact, I’ve found some great recipes and dietary information from the quaintest of blogs.

With the frequency of inaccurate news media reporting, even information from credible sources can be untrustworthy. That’s why I feel it’s more important to approach material using media literacy skills in order to determine whether or not information is relevant, instead of automatically trusting or distrusting a source.

A tool that has helped influence the spreading and receiving of information, though arguable whether it’s for better or worse, is social media. Many Americans check their social media accounts multiple times a day, making them a perfect captive audience to ads, memes, posts, news links, and photos on a frequent basis. The Internet gave us instantaneous capabilities; social media gave us endless possibilities.

References

Gerken, J. (2015). Sea levels along the northeast rose almost 4 inches in just 2 years: study. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/25/sea-level-rise-northeast_n_6751570.html?utm_hp_ref=green

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