Is this the Era of Unreliable Sources? – Reader Beware (Listener Beware) is the Warning of the Age

It’s tougher than it used to be – tougher finding credible, reliable sources…

In my speech classes, I have my students list their sources for their speeches. You know, “where did they get their information?”

I lecture about how to find credible sources — the ancient principle of ethos – the character of the speaker, the credibility of the speaker; Aristotle 101…

Unreliable SourcesSo, I look over their sources. They are all over the map. Some are very credible. Others come from John or Jane in their pajamas writing on their own blog (I guess, like me sometimes), or posting on some not.all.that.reliable web site.

It really was easier when I was their age. You researched in the library — a great big building with stacks and stacks of physical books. You started with the basics (Encyclopedia Britannica). Britannica could be boring, but was always reliable as a starting point.

And then you went to respected periodicals, and books and authors that the research librarian could vouch for.

What people read, and learned from, and quoted, was pretty reliable in the credibility department. Maybe not perfect; certainly with occasional errors; but still, for the most part, pretty trustworthy.

These days, it is so much tougher.   A “library” in the palm of their hand, but with no research librarian to guide them, to help them separate the reliable from the less.than.reliable.

And, even the books they read might be self-published not.all.that.reliable books anyway. (Yes, I’ve written a couple of those myself – though I do think my content is legitimate and helpful.

I don’t really know how to fix this. But here’s a warning – what you hear, what you read, really may not be all that reliable.

I guess we live in the era of Reader Beware (and Listener Beware). So…  Beware!


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