Tag Archives: information literacy

Conflicting sources in Ferguson

Venn diagram with good source criteria

A diagram by the author, created for first-year courses. Click image for a link to the PDF version.

I tell my college students to evaluate a source before they use it in a paper. Before they trust it to tell them the truth.

Around Ferguson, Mo., trust and truth evade me.

Questions on page 196 of the textbook in my critical reading and writing class suggest a formula to determine reliability. It’s a blue box with a list of questions, the kind savvy media consumers ask, like How did you find it? Who authored it?  Where was it published? Subsequent pages offer a chart to help crunch your answers (if you found it in a peer-reviewed journal or government website, that’s a good sign; if a retail website published it, that’s not so good).

I often distribute my own condensed guide, shown above. I sometimes talk about my experiences as a white, hearing, Jewish woman and how this relates to how I see, react to, and generate rhetoric.

What the public accepts about what happened in Ferguson: On August 9, a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.

Some sources the public has about the event:

-A transcript of a detective’s interview with police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown

-An interview with Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown that day, in an MSNBC video

-Accounts from other eyewitnesses–who saw it from cars, a balcony, the street–used in Wilson’s grand jury hearing.

I found these online, from media outlets I trust, mediated only by those asking the questions.

Other considerations include:
-American history

-Power

-Law enforcement trends and protocols

-Racism

-Prejudice

-Politics

-Psychology

-Communities

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