I remember, before the Internet, reading the outrageous tabloid headlines in the supermarket check out lane that made claims that Elvis is alive and there was scientific proof that Adam and Eve were really astronauts. We knew that photos were manipulated and that the stories were false. It was a form entertainment that was—and still is—supported by a niche group of readers. But a reader, who might have believed a story, could do no harm beyond telling a friend or two.
In the 21st century social media has become a powerful vehicle for individuals to share information exponentially with others. The ease of hitting the share button has led to the distribution of loads of misinformation. False claims and deceptive stories have gone from the supermarket check out lane into the news feeds of our personal devices. Sharers of information often do not take responsibility to do a credibility check for themselves and continue to spread this information to others.
A Credibility Check
With immigration being a popular issue being discussed by presidential candidates, my interest was sparked when I came across a Huffington Post article that countered common concerns. I wondered if the article was factual. Roque Planas (2015) makes the claim in his story, “One Of The Most Popular Anti-Immigrant Talking Points Just Keeps Falling Apart: Border walls never seemed so pointless,” that immigration from Mexico to the United States has decreased since 2008. He goes on to say that more Mexicans are actually leaving the U.S than immigrating. That’s not the message being sent during recent presidential debates. Surprised, I decided to take a closer look at the story.
I began my evaluation by confirming that the author is credible. Planas, who earned two master’s degrees and published academic research on Latin American Politics and U.S. Latino history, writes about Latinos and Latin America (Fellow Bios). He was recently appointed as a regional director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (Medina, 2015) and has written numerous articles as Editor of the Latino Voices section of The Huffington Post (The Huffington Post: Roque Planas).
Planas provides links to his reputable sources, which support his story, and includes data from the Pew Research Center and the United States Border Patrol, which I reviewed. He also offers incite from a policy analyst. This credible information backs up his message. I trust the information provided in this story and felt comfortable sharing it with my friends and family on Facebook.
A Disclosure of Biases
In addition to news, The Huffington Post offers blogs from 1,600 unpaid bloggers (The Huffington Post, 2016). Bloggers may not be professionals, and it is important for readers to evaluate the credibility of the information before believing it as fact, and discussing it or sharing with others.
Early blogs had been compared to talk radio because this new technology gave individuals and groups an opinion platform outside of mainstream news (Johnson & Kaye, 2004). Glenn Reynolds described a blog as “a disclosure of the blogger’s biases” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004, para. 12). I have found blogs to be informative, but it’s important to remind ourselves that blog writers are not bound by the same principles as traditional journalists and do not necessarily present accurate, fair information. As more journalists and large media outlets have begun to blog, this is starting to change, and more credibility can be found in blogs—but it’s up to the consumer to ascertain if this information, as well as all other forms of news, can be trusted.
Elvis Is Alive. [web photo]. Retrieved from http://www.elvisthemagazine.com/numo/modules/newsletter/uploads/u.1.10RunningforPresident.jpg
Fellow bios. Retrieved January 4, 2016, from http://journalism.berkeley.edu/conf/2014/immigration/fellows/
Johnson, T. J., & Kaye, B. K. (2004). Wag the blog: How reliance on traditional media and the internet influence credibility perceptions of weblogs among blog users. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly [H.W. Wilson – SSA], 81(3), 622-642.
Medina, M. (2015, November 17). NAHJ board appoints four regional directors. Retrieved on January 4, 2016, from http://nahj.org/nahj-board-appoints-four-regional-directors/
Planas, R. (2015). One of the most popular anti-immigrant talking points just keeps falling apart: Border walls never seemed so pointless. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mexican-immigration-has-fallen_564e664ae4b0258edb30d73e
The Huffington Post. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Huffington-Post
The Huffington Post: Roque Planas. Retrieved on January 4, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roque-planas/