A. Nicot – Assignment 10: Vetting

There are three main ways to determine a source’s validity as provider of information: are the people writing this information accredited and qualified?; is the publication be it print or digital that they are using accredited, recommended, or respected by experts in the fields it deals with?; is it actually presenting information in a way that defies doubt?

The third of those aspects is crucial if you are trying to determine a source’s true worth, the first two aspects are useful to determine a level of respectability if the issue covered is not particularly dubious or virulently controversial in a manner that might otherwise affect reporting or opinion. Let us describe a hypothetical example.

The nationalist website FdeSouche often delivers factual content – but is it’s presentation questionable? Should a strong condemnation of it by other press outlets affect a reader’s judgment of it?

A story concerning a local crime incident is reported in a local blog posted online, but the story is one that is controversial due to the circumstances of the event in question. The blog post about this incident contains photographic evidence of the event and direct testimony from witnesses the blog author interviewed, but he himself holds opinions directly involved in this controversial case as presented in the rest of his blog. While the information he presents is reliable and his conclusions even sound based on the evidence, a larger national press syndicate condemns his appropriation of the crime for political ends, while it itself does not publish perhaps crucial witness testimony which may change the way the case is presented to and understood by the broader national public.

In this case, should one trust the national publication which is reputable and contains professional investigative journalist, or the clearly-evidenced blog post of a politically minded blogger? Quite clearly the more reliable source on this story at least is the one with photographs of the crime in action who lived in the neighborhood where it was committed. His direct expertise and irrefutable (let’s say) presentation of evidence to form an interpretation of events should trump the reputation of a national press organization which deliberately withholds information for what might be an ideological purpose, or which lacks a contextually appropriate interpretation of the event.

This is in any case how I would personally determine a good source if I actually applied a formal logic to it. In fact of course, I search for sources which will provide news in the format I am looking for it. If I want a broad overview of a news story in easy-to-read blurbs I go to the BBC or CNN (in English-language), or if I want to read a slightly more in depth article I will read the UK newspaper, The Telegraph (in English), or Le Figaro (in French), maybe Le Monde (also French). If I’m looking for a left wing analysis, or a right wing one, I will visit the appropriate website in whichever language I choose, and usually most mainstream news sources have a bias in one of those directions. If I’m looking for a specifically nationalist approach  I will visit one of many nationalist news-agglomeration sites which usually do not necessarily write their own articles but draw attention to the manner in which news stories are covered and provide information in a manner which filters for relevancy to its audience. Perhaps I will pursue the topic to seek a general view of the issue in the eyes of internet denizens, and look at popular imageboards or content-sharing websites.

News acquisition is contextual. I wouldn’t actually recommend a standard manner to analyze a news source like I provided, but rather to understand that since all news is filtered and since all content distributors have interests and biases, to sort through them accordingly to what you’re trying to know. Le Figaro will mention how an international incident will affect France where the BBC will not, for example. As far as sorting through information that is contradictory, if there is no way to find out a definite answer, the only solution is to trust your gut and use what is the most likely version of a story, as you would think it. Or defer to the opinion of  a person or commentator you trust. For example, Eric Zemmour (investigative journalist and media personality)  is usually my go to reference if I have doubts on an issue I know he would know more about in his work. It helps that we agree on many issues.

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