Evaluating the Credibility of Information Sources: An Important Procedure to Managing News and Information in the 21st Century

Here’s the basic premise I’m operating from: There’s too much information for even the most rigorous critical thinker to evaluate each news item or issue on a case by case basis. As a result, everyone has to rely on shortcuts or heuristics to evaluate information. One common approach is to rely on certain sources, while ignoring others. A source can be an individual, group or institution. It may be someone we know personally or strangers we see on TV or the internet. It may be mainstream or fringe outlets. In some cases, we just accept information from sources we trust at face value, without any scrutiny. For this approach to be sound, an individual has to effectively identify and separate reliable from unreliable sources of information. This is key. However, in a democracy, it is also crucial that consensus forms about credible and trustworthy source from across the political spectrum. If every political or social group makes different determinations about trusted sources, I don’t see how we can operate from a common set of facts and norms; and without this, I don’t think we can have a functioning democracy.

Because of all of these factors, I think we should put more time and effort into a thorough evaluation of the people and institutions that play a major role in providing information to the public sphere. This process should be based on similar, if not the same, type of standards journalists and academics use, and can be put into a table or scorecard. This would be easier to read, allow for regular updates, and provide a way to hold pundits and news outlets accountable. The reputation and trust of those who score highly should increase, while the opposite should occur for those with low scores.

By the way, a recent article on Bill Barr, specifically making a case that the public should not trust his pronouncements, made me think of this topic. Spending time and energy building a case for an individiual’s or institution’s credibility, based on previous comments and actions–and then presenting this in an easy-to-digest form–seems like a more useful way to use resources and an effective way to help citizens to sift through information. Ultimately, I think the approach will be crucial for creating a healthy public space for debate and discussion of critical issues–at least if we want a functioning democracy. On a sidenote, I recommend reading the Bill Barr piece. At the same time, when I imagine indifferent news consumers reading it, I tend to think they would think it’s just partisan attack on Barr. What I’m suggesting could get around this–as long as casual news consumers of all political stripes view the process of evaluating news sources as trustworthy and credible. One thing I forgot to mention: The people evaluating sources should represent major political groups, and being diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, religion would be great as well.

2020 State and Local Elections

I’ve been spending so much time consuming national news that I’ve been neglecting informing my self on state and local news–particularly the candidates and important issues. Thanks to Don, I’m going to try and get on the ball. And this thread will be a place where people can post articles and discuss the candidates and major topics.

The Biggest News Story That is Not Being Told

In February of this year, I started a writing the following post (which I have edited just now):

Acquittal of Trump Feels like the Beginning of a Dangerous Moment in the U.S.

I actually think that for most of the Trump presidency, the U.S. was in a dangerous situation. Trump is erratic and ignorant. Even if he didn’t start a catastrophe, he could mishandle a situation and create one. But here’s why I single out the recent Senate acquittal. Even if Republicans actively or passively supported Trump, in spite of his egregious acts of corruption, incompetence, and gross unfitness—I believed Republicans still could still redeem these failings and their party, if they stood up to or stopped Trump in a significant way at a critical time. Impeachment and conviction/removal of Trump was one such moment. Up until something like impeachment and removal, I had a small glimmer of hope for Republicans, at least a meaningful number, deep down respected the rule of law and Constitution, and would ultimately put the country ahead of their party. Senate Republicans, joining Democrats, to convict and remove Trump would have shown this.

But this did not happen. This action now suggests to me that Republicans, overall, either do not embrace the rule of law and Constitution or are too weak and craven to meaningfully defend it—which, to me, is another way of sayingthe Republicans, as a party, have essentially stepped away from being a liberal democratic party, and have become an authoritarian one instead. (Continued in the next comment post.)

Black Lives Matter Vs. All Lives Matter

We’ve been hearing the phrase “black lives matter” a lot lately. Some seem to object to the phrase, and respond with a phrase of their own–namely, “all lives matter.” Assuming both sides uttering these phrases are genuine and acting in good faith, I wanted to unpack what these phrases mean, and where the disconnect may occur.

The Tom Cotton Op-Ed Controversy at the New York Times; Or, the Challenge of Covering Trump, Part 2

There’s been a big controversy over the publication of an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton, most notably among the Times staff–so much so that the op-ed managing editor and deputy managing editor have stepped down. This incident is part of a bigger, complex issue that doesn’t have any clear and easy solutions. I want to put in my two cents. I’ll do that in the first comments section. (I should say that I consider this post closely related to the thread, The Challenge of Covering Trump.)

Four Pieces of Writing That Must Be Read in the Trump Era

I really enjoy the experience of coming across a new idea that changes my perception or understanding in a significant way. I’ve been thinking about four pieces of writing that did that for–all of them crucial, I would say, to Americans. I list those articles, with a brief description, in the first comment. (Note: The title is more of an attention-getter than something I literally believe.)