3-1 Blog: Sources, Credibility, and Social Media

Source Evaluation

The online news article that I have chosen to analyze is Amtrak Train Was Going At Twice the Speed Limit Before Philadelphia Crash. The article was written by Alana Horowitz and Dana Liebelson on the Huffington Post website on May 13th, 2015. To determine if the article was creditable or not I researched the sources and the validity of the sources. I used the following resources as guides in what to look for to determine if the source was credible or not.

  • Criteria to Evaluate the Credibility of WWW Resources (Montecino, 1998)
  • Critical Evaluation of Information Sources (Bell and Franz, 2014)
  • Blur How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010)

The first source cited in the article was the National Transportation Safety Board. In the article the National Transportation Safety Board are notated as stating, “[The Amtrak train was going] more than twice the legal speed limit” (Horowitz and Liebelson, 2015). When you click on the link of the statement it directs you to Twitter page for the National Transportation Safety Board. When researching the National Transportation Website it states the following, “The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation – railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. The NTSB determines the probable cause of the accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents” (About the National Transportation Safety Board, 2015). I did find it credible that the authors were able to link the story to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The National Safety Board has the following members:

  • Honorable Christopher Hart, Chairman
  • Honorable T. Bell Dinh-Zarr, Vice Chairman
  • Honorable Robert L. Sumwait, Member
  • Honorable Earl F. Weener, Member

(The NSTB Board, 2015)

Upon looking at the biographies of each of these members I found it creditable that each of the members had a background in the transportation industry.

The second source cited in the article however is remaining as anonymous. In the article Horowitz and Liebelson (2014) state, “ Sources familiar with the investigation of the crash told the Wall Street Journal that the train hit a sharp curve and failed to slow down. As NBC News reported, the speed limit on the curve itself was 50 mph, while the limit on the track preceding the cure was 70 mph—still far below the train’s apparent speed” (Horowitz and Liebelson, 2015). Where did these sources come from and is the validity of the sources accurate? Did the train really fail to slow down? In the book Blur Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) state, “[With anonymous sourcing] we should ask why we should accept the source’s information as credible…you would be wise to reserve judgment until further evidence detailed in the story supports the information” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010, p. 88). While the article does point to the Wall Street Journal and the NBC News as reporting the investigation of the crash, since the sources are not named and we do not know the credibility of the sources we cannot view this account as reliable.

The article continues on anonymous sourcing in this article by stating that “7 people were killed and at least 200 were injured during the train being overturned” (Horowitz and Libelson, 2014). This article points to yet another Huffington post article written about how many people were killed in the accident and how many people were injured. There is no creditable source for proving that this fact is accurate. As a consumer we would want to view many different information sources to determine if there were actually 7 people that died in the accident.

The third source cited in the article is the Amtrak newsletter. Horowitz and Libelson (2014) state, “A key safety system that slows down trains on curves was not yet installed in Philadelphia when Tuesday’s disaster took place, according to an Amtrak newsletter earlier this year. The Positive Train Control technology is supposed to be installed on U.S. freight and commuter lines by the end of the year, but according to the January/February newsletter, it was only operational on 400 miles of track” (Horwitz and Libelson, 2015). While the authors did link the Amtrak newsletter to this article where did they get the information that the Positive Train technology is supposed to be installed on U.S freight and commuter lines? There is no credible source or link that is provided for this comment. It even states in the article that Amtrak did not immediately respond to the comment. If Amtrak did not make any comments to the Newsletter or the advancement of Positive Train Control technology can we determine this article as credible?

Throughout this news article in the Huffington Post the authors note one credible news source, which is the National Transportation Safety Board. Other than this article sourcing biographies of the members of the Safety Board, the entire article is made up of anonymous sourcing and linking facts and statements to other information sources such as The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. I cannot determine whether this article is credible or not because I cannot rely on the accounts of anonymous sourcing. There needs to be links and statements from more credible sources in this article to trust it as being reliable.

Trusting information from Non-Professionals

When you are looking at any information source whether it is a professional or non-professional you need to question the validity of the information.

When looking at information from non-professionals it is important to look at a few different things when evaluating either a blog, personal website or news article:

  • Who is the author?
  • What are the author’s credentials? What is the reputation of the author?
  • Who is the publisher of the article?
  • Does the author exhibit a particular bias when writing?
  • Are the sources that are being used credible and does the author choose to write from both sides of a story?
  • What is the time frame of the story? Do the facts and time frame align with the conclusions made?

(Bell and Frantz, 2014).

Before taking this course I assumed that all of the information I was reading was credible and I did not have to question the information I was reading. I now know how important it is to question the sources, the author and the publication in which I am getting my information from. You cannot rely on the accounts or statements from professionals and you cannot rely on the information being presented as being accurate. I enjoyed reading the article Critical Evaluation of Information Sources (2014) and will continue to use this as a resource when evaluating an information source whether that is an article, blog, newspaper or news broadcast.

Social Media Influence on the Spread of Information

Social media has immensely influenced the sharing and receiving of information whether the information is accurate or not. Social media is easily transferable online because of how fast you can post information. Reading the article How Does False Information Spread Online (2014) I was surprised to find the following statistic: “[In the World Economic Forum the 10th top trend] was the concern over the rapid spread of misinformation online, specifically social media’s role in this. At a value of 3.34 this was seen as somewhat to very significant (Vis, 2014). While the Internet allows users to rapidly report information online we have to remember as consumers that not all information we are viewing is accurate. We need to participate in online verification to determine if the online information is in fact accurate.

We also need to expand our knowledge past our user preferences. According to the article The Dilemma of Group Membership in the Internet Age: Public Knowledge as Preferred Information Vahamaa and West (2014) state, “As an adjunct to the digital divide theory, another paradoxical result of ubiquitous media availability and use is an increase of knowledge gaps caused by user preferences” (Vahamaa and West, 2014). Before taking this course I would often click on articles shown to me within my Facebook profile everyday. I would not question the validity of the article shown in my profile by my user preferences. Upon taking this course I now look at articles that are not preselected by my user preferences and I question the validity of the information being shown to me.

Works Cited

“About The National Transportation Safety Board.” National Transportation Board. Web. 17 May 2015. http://www.ntsb.gov/about/Pages/default.aspx

Bell, C., & Frantz, P. (2014, December). Critical evaluation of information sources. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from http://library.uoregon.edu/guides/findarticles/credibility.html

Horowitz, Alana, and Dana Liebelson. “Amtrak Train Was Going At Twice The Speed Limit Before Philadelphia Crash.” Huffington Post. 13 May 2015. Web. 17 May 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/13/amtrak-crash-speed-limit_n_7276902.html

Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload. New York: Bloomsbury.

Montecino, V. (1998, August). Helpful hints to help you evaluate the credibility of web resources. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/web-eval-sites.htm

“The Monthly Publication for and by Amtrak Employees.” 20.1 (2015). Amtrak. Web. 17 May 2015. http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/774/37/Amtrak-Ink-Jan-Feb-2015.pdf

“The NTSB Board.” National Transportation Board. Http://www.ntsb.gov/about/board/Pages/default.aspx. Web. 17 May 2015.

VÄHÄMAA, M., & WEST, M. D. (2014). THE DILEMMA OF GROUP MEMBERSHIP IN THE INTERNET AGE: PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE AS PREFERRED MISINFORMATION. Javnost-The Public (European Institute For Communication & Culture (EURICOM)), 21(1), 5-101.Train

Vis, F. (2014, April 16). How does False Information Spread Online? Retrieved May 17, 2015, from http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2014/04/how-does-false-information-spread-online/