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Citing Sources: Everybody doing their part to stop fake news

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I recently had an old friend mock me for sharing a link from an aggregator blog (it was boingboing; that's beside the point).

He had a point...and he didn't.

There is a point in that the various aggregators - regardless of which ones you like and trust - sometimes (or often) pass along poorly-sourced material, rumor, or spin things so hard that their headlines are counter to the actual news.

At the same time, just because someone you don't like or don't trust says a thing, it's not automatically false either.  If he'd bothered to actually look at what they were talking about, he would have seen a link to the primary source. Which goes to illustrate something all of us are guilty of, and all of us need to change:

We can't rely on the headline and auto-generated snapshot on social media.

Let me repeat that.

We can't rely on the headline and auto-generated snapshot on social media.

So...what are we to do?

There's a really simple guideline, and you probably already know it.

Get as close to a primary source as possible.

You might have learned this as "don't cite Wikipedia". If you had a good instructor, they told you to not cite Wikipedia directly, but to go to the sources that Wikipedia itself cites.

For the rest of us, that means that if you're sharing an article from an aggregator site, at least check out what they link to and cite before sharing. And preferentially share the source material instead of the aggregator site's page.

I've also shifted my primary news gathering to several well-known and (largely) respected organizations - Reuters, Wired, the BBC, and so on.

This won't quell the controversy over issues and disagreements.

But it does mean that we'll be doing our part to both help get rid of "fake news" and stop giving others easy ammunition to attack us and our beliefs.

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