Chapter 6
 

A JOURNALIST'S SKEPTICAL RESEARCH

 

Examples

More research tools

Exercises

 

WEBSITE VERIFICATION

 

Journalists and other researchers have taken the problem of web forgeries and scams seriously, and many now offer guides for evaluating information on the Internet. Here are a few sites to get you started:

 

The International Fact-Checking Network is a division of the Poynter Institute that specializes in fact checking from a variety of angles. Here's a post on verifying social media videos, for example.

 

FactCheck.org has a page dedicated to debunking false stories.

 

Patrick Meier, founder of the nonprofit technology Ushahidi and author of the blog irevolutions, offers a helpful list of online verification hints and tips.

 

Journalist Steve Buttry has created a list of helpful verification tips for using Twitter.

 

 

WEBSITES FOR JOURNALISTS

 

The following websites can show you good places to start for a wide variety of subjects— crime, business, elections, education, the environment—and they also can help you with specific reporting issues, such as Freedom of Information requests or legal questions.  

 

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Journalist’s Toolbox is one of our favorites because it includes such a large variety and number of sources and because its organization makes it easy to browse or search. 

 

JournalistExpress offers a concise list of "Essential Journalism Links."

 

Journalism Resources is a page that includes links to online sources, converters, calculators, factfinders and style guides. It was compiled by Karla Tonella at the University of Iowa, and although it hasn't been updated in a while, it's still helpful.

 

The Journalist's Resource focuses on training journalists to improve the knowledge and research behind their reporting.  Here, the organization offers good ideas for campus news stories based on research (the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy).

 

This page, also from the Journalist's Resource, links to some especially good federal government websites, with descriptions of what you might find at each.

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"Deepfakes are, in some sense, engineered to further undermine our ability to decide what is true and what is not true, and that's concerning," says John Villasenor of The Brookings Institution, in this video for The Atlantic.

 

This video is also about deepfakes, and it addresses how to respond to dishonest manipulation in general. Here's an example showing that this genre of manipulation isn't brand new: while this 2010 video really does portray Queen Elizabeth II, her words are dubbed in by the Yes Men, an activist group.

Deepfakes
Search Engines Are Biased

 

This graphic illustrates in more detail the behind-the-scenes workings of a search engine. It’s helpful to keep in mind that search engines have built-in biases and are not meant to be completely objective or fair. That’s why good journalists often turn to specialized websites for information. That’s why it’s also good to familiarize yourself a bit with the basics of how search engines work.  Google describes its advanced search and some additional search tips.

 

Social Media Verification
 

This video with Mandy Jenkins and Craig Silverman offers solid reporting tips when using social media. It's a few years old, so some of the apps they suggest may be gone, but their advice endures. You can also see a discussion of this video and the broader issue of online accuracy on our blog.

Citizen Evidence Lab
 

Amnesty International has launched a website to help people verify YouTube videos and other user-generated content.

You Don't Find Chuck Norris—not on Google
 

Google bombs are a good reminder that people–and search engine owners themselves–manipulate search engines. A Google bomb happens when someone makes a specific page appear high in the search results when someone searches a particular name or phrase as a prank or political statement.  Here’s one that Google allowed to stand: If you type “find Chuck Norris” into the Google search box, the first link that appears states that “Google won’t search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don’t find Chuck Norris, he finds you.”