The Past and Now
One of the differences between now and say 25 years ago, is the fast availability of knowledge. Knowledge has been widely available for a long time but in the pre-Internet days to access this knowledge one would need to find someone that knows about what you are wanting to find out or locate and enter a library or similar institution to find a suitable respected publication.
Nowadays with the rise of web sites and smartphone applications, sources of knowledge, such as Wikipedia, NHS, CIA World Facts, BBC News, offer a much wider range of knowledge and are of course very fast to access without the problems of geography and opening times of the older institutes.
This wonderful resource makes the verification of facts and the availability of data to all one of the wonders of our modern times. In the past one would ask colleagues, friends, teachers and others around us about something we wanted to know about such as whether they drive on the left in Singapore, how many number one hits the Beatles had, what Jimmy Hendrix died of, how many European states have a monarchy but nowadays that information is at our fingertips and the skills required are ensuring that we are asking the correct question and whether the Internet source is reliable.
Photo source: www.flickr.com. Photo credit: Laia Ros, Photo caption:
Random photos of computer, february 14, 2013.
Another problem for journalists today is plagiarism, cases of this nature abound in the courts of law today. There are so many good data sources available that it can be quite difficult to ensure that we are not, even unconsciously, copying others’ work. When checking facts one of the main sources on the Internet is Wikipedia and if we use this source it can be quite awkward and difficult to word our version of a story about data such that it is distinguishable as our work and not seen to be as from this source.
Verification is another big problem, distinguishing between easily available data and proven data. There are many embarrassing stories about stories where an error has been propagated because the journalist only used one source and took the erroneous data verbatim. Sometimes a lot of searching has to be done to find out the real fact or facts and maybe more than searching, but actual research, has to be carried out to get to the truth instead.
Data has always been misrepresented or manufactured to carry home a point and it is our job as journalists to see beyond and behind what is being presented and to verify or discover the truth and facts. This is seen as a modern problem, “Fake News” but the real name for this is propaganda and it has always been present. Nowadays finding data is very easy but the hard work must be in verifying the data such that the story we are writing, publishing and are responsible for has merit and truth.
Having a popular web domain where information is sourced entails a lot of responsibility. The fact that there may be predators targeting your site to misuse it or thwart the aims and objectives of the site is enough reason to employ professionals in the field to protect the site. Today, we have Nick, a computer engineer, who has spent most of his life working in this field, talk to us about this.