Lateral readers don’t spend time on the page or site until they’ve first gotten their bearings by looking at what other sites and resources say about the source at which they are looking.—Mike Caulfield, Chapter 16
Feedback on Post #1
I was able to write all of you last week with feedback on FC1. Generally the most common problem executing Move 1 — as we discussed on Thursday — was that many authors did not check previous fact-checking work from Politifact, Snopes, Factcheck.org, or Wikipedia, but rather googled their way to information on the topic at hand.
In today’s lesson we’ll talk about why googling as your first fact-checking move can be a problem, but before we get to that, let me ask: were you able to better demonstrate Move 1 in FC2? Let’s take some time to talk about this and WordPress and give you some additional time in class to clean things up. I see some of you are having problems with it.
Move 3: read laterally
Going upstream (Move 2) teaches you how to hold sources accountable by looking up the info they’ve presented to you via links or names of other sources. This is helpful for establishing consensus and, when used in tandem with reading laterally (Move 3) it can help you evaluate how credible sources are. That said, reading laterally works by going “across many connected sites instead of digging deep into the site at hand.”
What does this mean? Why is it important?
After Trump was elected in November 2016, Saturday Night Live ran this satirical ad of a planned community called “The Bubble”:
The ad poked fun of the privileged position that hipsters, progressives, or white millennials can choose to close themselves off from a version of America that threatens their worldview (they jokingly call it “Brooklyn”). It’s a funny skit because it plays off some of the fundamental trouble with a networked view of reality.
The concept of the “bubble” actually draws from tech guru Eli Pariser, who gave this famous TED Talk on filter bubbles back in 2011 and published a book about them soon after:
Since Pariser’s talk 8 years ago, information has become even more filtered. For example, multiple Pew studies — including this one from January 2020 — found that there are key differences between how folks on the left and the right of the political spectrum consume news. For example, while 23% of Democrats surveyed got their election news from Fox, 60% of Republicans did. Moreover while 75% of conservatives trust Fox for political and election news, 77% of liberals distrust them. A few other findings:
- “Democrats report much higher levels of trust in a number of news sources than Republicans” [link]
- “Americans are divided by party in the sources they turn to for political news” [link]
- “In recent years, partisan media divides have grown, largely driven by Republican distrust” [link]
Assessing media bias with AllSides
In Chapter 17, Caulfield uses Wikipedia’s criteria for defining reliable sources, which he suggests are based on three primary characteristics:
- Process. The source has a method of insuring or verifying that the information it presents is accurate and reliable and it shares it with its audiences.
- Expertise. The source has a trackable, traceable history of knowledge with the subject at hand as an expert, credentialed professional, or via proximity to the information in ways that excludes laypersons.
- Aim. The source has an incentive to present the best possible information to you in the pursuit of truth or for the purpose of establishing consensus.
You can and should use this criteria as you evaluate sources; however, in a world of networked data, some sites help us read laterally by examining the credibility of other news sources for us. AllSides is one such site.
Activity #1: Take a moment to look at AllSides . Then read laterally by looking for information about AllSides from other sources.
To do this, use Caulfield’s suggested search syntax for this: that is, search for the site, but include a minus with a site search [allsides.com -site:allsides.com]. The results will show us sites that mention AllSides without including results from the actual site (AllSides.com).
Who are these sources and what have they said about them? Do you think AllSides is reliable? Add your notes to our Google Doc.
Activity #2: Explore how info travels within political bubbles that can be identified using media bias tools at AllSides. See specific directions and add your notes to our Google Doc.
Activity #3 (if there’s time): Read laterally by “looking at what other sites and resources say about [a] source.” To practice this, head to our Google Doc.