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How much can we trust online news sources?


Living in Ikoria
Staff member
The commentary piece I'm pasting below (from the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri) conveys the story of an outspoken gentleman from the right - Andrew Breitbart - that had posted a video of professors from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and the University of Missouri - St. Louis (my Alma Mater). The professors had been discussing Labor Unions and violence.

To get to the point, this guy got a lot of people riled up about universities and unions, thinking that the professors were advocating the use of violence in unions. It was then apparently revealed that he had left out/edited parts of the video that explained context of the statements given.

The Internet - Commentary | The Columbia Daily Tribune - Columbia, Missouri

The Tribune's View

The Internet

Can you trust it?

By Henry J. Waters III
Friday, May 13, 2011

Everyone with the slightest interest in politics is constantly regaled with provocative stuff on the Internet carefully created and chosen to alarm viewers and readers. Most must be taken lightly or even with disdain.

A recent example that made the news involved a video posted by right-wing critic Andrew Breitbart showing grossly manipulated excerpts of online presentations made by instructors at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Missouri-Kansas City who seemed to advocate labor union violence.

The Breitbart version was circulated by conservatives eager to believe the worst about unions, professors and other devils targeted on Breitbart’s Big Government website.

Certainly, in this column lovingly devoted to free speech principles, I am not saying Breitbart has no right to criticize the professors, but he should not misrepresent what they do or say. In reaction to his latest post, university officials in both cities had to correct the record by showing more fully the content and context of the collaborative online labor studies presentations.
If Breitbart had fairly represented the content of the course, any subsequent criticism would have been fair enough. Instead, he edited their videos to distort what the instructors said.

At the end of the day, perversely gotten benefit has come from the Breitbart foray into dissembling. The universities were prompted to evaluate, comment on and justify the labor studies course. Too bad it stemmed from a false premise. Too bad it won’t discredit Breitbart in the eyes of his faithful followers who like his conclusions regardless of their validity.

The larger lesson is one we all are learning daily: Be skeptical of material on the Internet. It’s a ubiquitous medium subject to misuse by anybody any time for any purpose without oversight or careful editing or attention to fact or any of the other safeguards and assurances inherent in the very idea of “mainstream” journalism.

Please pardon this blatant self-promotion.

This isn't necessarily about Breitbart and the university professors (discuss them if you'd like, but please stay on topic), but more about internet news/blog material.

How skeptical are you in this regard? What steps do you take to confirm the validity of online news stories from sources such as blogs, smaller sites, etc.? Do you feel that smaller online news sources are trustworthy, overall?

After reading this in the context of the modern age of news and political debate, I figured it would bring forth a good discussion. :nod:
Also, I thought I'd share a quote from a local guy in St. Louis that posted this story (Adam S.) from that Columbia newspaper on facebook. It seemed pertinent to the discussion:

"It's true that you should be skeptical of information, but I'm not sure it's any more true for the internet than for mainstream journalism. You should trust people who reliably provide accurate and vetted information."
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Registered Member
I've always been very driven to only believe what I actually witness. Or to only believe what I've been intricately involved with. Gossip is not my thing because I am reluctant to accept anything that hasn't come directly from the "horses mouth". All news sources are subject to innocent errors. Beyond that though these days commentary is more widely accepted. In the days of emerging TV it was facts only. I would like to see fact(s) confirmed before reporting but media is so desperate to be the first at at newsworthy items being made publc. There's no objectivity anymore. It seems our society likes controversy too. No one is ok with what is right in front of them....they have to have an opinion or create an argument.


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Unity said:
How skeptical are you in this regard? What steps do you take to confirm the validity of online news stories from sources such as blogs, smaller sites, etc.? Do you feel that smaller online news sources are trustworthy, overall?
If something seems sketchy to me, I'll usually Google it and see what I can find out. The media in general tends to be a huge echo chamber, though, just repeating what the other guys said until eventually a source doing independent investigation on the matter weighs in to reveal everything everyone has been saying was pretty much crap the whole time (and by that time everyone's usually moved on and stopped caring, sadly).

I don't see online media as particularly untrustworthy, though. Printing presses will churn out copy whether it happens to be fact-checked or not, and you often see some of the most ridiculous bullshit in print, on television, or radio. The nice thing about the internet, is that a person reading something on it has access to the means to instantly do a little independent investigation of a claim. So while the internet may have more bullshit, I wonder if people don't end up taking much less away from it.


/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
As much as you can trust people? :lol:

I don't know whether to trust news sources that pretend to be neutral but then you find out some manipulations done behind the scenes to portray such and such as this and that, or blogs that are usually not neutral and filled with bias but at least they're honest that it's their opinion --- as long as they're not claiming their opinion as fact.

When you google something, you'd have lots of sources saying the same thing - but it's easy to fabricate news or create several sites to spread propaganda and lies. People even manipulate google searches. I don't know how else to trust something until after a cross-check of several sources, local, international and even biased sites. If they all agree on one thing, it can ony be true. If not...then that's when you just base on which has disappointed you the least. :p Of course some would go the easy way and just believe on what they want to be true. They're not seeking true information, but rather validation of their own biases. We're as messed up as the online sources.


not a plastic bag
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name Breibart is his $100,000 reward for video that members of the TeaParty called Jim Clyburn and John Lewis the n-word during the Obamacare signing. In case you've forgotten, Clyburn, Lewis and a few other Reps were walking from their offices to the House building when the TeaParty started chanting "Nigger" at them. Not once, but supposedly at least 15 times. This was widely reported at the time: Tea Party Protests: 'Ni**er,' 'Fa**ot' Shouted At Members Of Congress
CBC member: Health bill protesters called lawmakers the N-word - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room
Racial overtones at healthcare protest | Front Row Washington
however, no one could step up and produce the video or eye witness testimony that it actually happened. Counting cell phones, news reporters and personal video recorders there were probably several hundred video cameras there, so someone should have easily recorded it.

As Unity said though, this is not about Breibart, but it brings out that fact that ALL news sources are capable of spreading their agenda. Its not limited to small groups or the internet or newspapers. The best approach is to be skeptical of everything you read and get it from multiple sources.


Registered Member
Online is less regulated and anyone can contribute to the internet, so the source should always be looked at. My lecturers are very strict on internet sources in essays, they have to be from a goverment or academic website.


Registered Member