Chapter 6 describes how to use online and offline sources judiciously. Journalists are expected to filter through massive amounts of information in places like the blogosphere, Internet searches, Twitter feeds or the rumor mill to find what’s accurate and actually helpful for their audience.
They’re also expected to know how to seek out good information in the first place. This chapter continues the theme from Habits 3 that there are people behind the curtain of the Internet, whose credibility students must assess before they use any information.
You can download the European Journalism Centre's Verification Handbook for free. The verification case studies are good for class discussions (the Interactive Workbook "Main Page" also includes a link to the handbook).
Chapter 6 in the textbook and the online workbook both provide some quick search and web credibility exercises. The activities below are more in-depth.
1. Boards of directors
a. For-profit media companies. Ask students to go to the website of CBS. Ask them to apply the lessons on website credibility. For instance, what can they determine about the organization’s mission? What does the url’s suffix tell them?
Students can practice their Internet searching skills to tease out information about the powerful people who guide corporations and other organizations by serving on their boards of directors.
Then, assign students to research one or more of the people on the Board of Directors. What is their expertise? Why would the corporation be interested in having the members of this group at the helm?
ABC’s board is listed on the The Walt Disney Company’s website.
NBC’s board is listed on the NBCUniversal website.
b. Non-profit organizations In contrast to the for-profit companies above, this activity asks students to assess a non-profit organization with the .org suffix and research its board of directors.
Ask students to go to the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Ask them to apply the lessons on website credibility. For instance, what can they determine about the organization’s mission? What does the url’s suffix tell them?
Then ask students to research the Board of Directors. How are they selected? What is their expertise? Why would the Academy select these types of directors?
Some other non-profits you could walk students through and ask them to research are those in their own future profession or related to their current interests.
2. Twitter research
This activity familiarizes students with some of the information they can find out about a person on Twitter to start to ascertain whether an account is authentic. We've selected reporters so students can also gain some insight into what a journalist might tweet about.
Ask students to research one of the people below and summarize the information they find, answering the questions below:
Gwen Ifill, a reporter at PBS
Brian Stelter, a reporter at CNN
Michele Norris, a reporter at NPR
Christiane Amanpour, a reporter at ABC
a. What does the Twitter bio say about the journalist?
b. How many followers does the journalist have?
c. Who are some of the people she or he is following? Do you see any trends in their jobs or specialities?
d. How long has the journalist had a Twitter account? (You can use twbirthday.com or another online calculator.)