In Whom Do We Trust?
Opined Ars: "Of course, comparing the facts and opinions posted on blogs to the mainstream media may not be the best way to determine credibility. The beauty of the Internet is that people can write openly on almost any topic, and they may disagree heavily with the angle presented by certain news sources. Those people will undoubtedly be miffed at automatically being categorized as 'little credible' just because their opinions may differ."
As generation after generation of ad targeting software has found, it is just plan hard to machine read millions of Web sites, blogs, social media, etc. to decide if the content is appropriate for advertising much LESS gauge if it is "credible" since that word seems to be a moving targeting in the online era. Even when you people-read every story, finding credibility is elusive. For example, just this week I helped a client generate nearly 200 on and offline stories and I'd say a good third of them has a least one factual error or featured "reporting" that was ripe with opinion vs. fact. But you wouldn't know this unless you read 10 or 15 different versions of the story. If, like most folks, you read just one or two, you might have seen one of the stories with mistakes. And trust me when I tell you that some of the biggest media companies in the world had stories with mistakes.
The internet has not just put pressure on the financial structure of traditional media, which can't figure out whether or not to charge for online access to their content, but it has compressed time so that reporters are forced to cut corners and move faster than their better judgment tells them in order to post stories as fast as they can. The old J-school notion of "triangulating" sources (hearing the same thing from three separate people) has gone by the wayside in favor or quoting unnamed sources who as often as not have their own agenda regarding the story being reported. The end result is factual mistakes and stories that lean heavily on the perspective of a single individual. And we're talking about the "credible" press, not bloggers who are free to opine without regard to who, what, when, where, why and how.
Small wonder that the youth of America put as much if not more creditability in Jon Stewart's "reporting" than they do newspapers (which they don't read anyway) or network or cable news (which they don't watch anyway). Meanwhile, parents spend hours over dinners beating back the urban myths that their kids claim are breaking news (ok, ok, maybe not hours, maybe more like the 3.5 minutes it takes for them to suck up a bowl of pasta and announce "Gotta run, homework.")
So who can you trust? Hard to know any more, but I can help you decide who NOT to trust. Here is a handy guide. Keep it taped to your screen.
DO NOT TRUST:
Anyone with a tattoo. I know its "body art" but I agree with me 85 year-old mum that they're "tacky."
Anyone who puts their nickname in quote marks like Billy "Bob" Smith. Smacks of past experience as an auto salesman.
A medical person who says, "This will only hurt a little."
Anyone you don't know who starts following your tweets or asks you to link to them in some social space. Case most recently made by University of Boston med student.
Girls with boy's names and boys with girl's names. Could be the parents passed the obfuscation gene to the kid.
People who use the long form of their name instead of the standard nick name as in Theodore instead of Ted. Indicates upbringing in Darien, Greenwich or other town where parents would rather say "yes" than "no" to their pendulant, spoiled offspring.
Email from anyone who calls you their "friend" or "dear one" or "beloved." Delete immediately.
Anyone who puts photos of their kids or pets online. Indicates clear lack of judgment.
Columnists who claim to know it all.