One of the things that’s been much on my mind lately is source accuracy. A friend of mine once told me that her father, a lawyer, told her that whenever the media wrote about one of his cases, they were only 50% accurate. She thought that was an exageration before my recent experience with FOX and their pals.
With so much misinformation, how do you find what is accurate?
This is why primary sources are important. Journal articles about scientific discoveries get you as close to the actual experiments and the data as possible. Some scientists make their actual results available online. Diaries and letters written by people who viewed the events are first hand accounts. No one is closer to what happened, but this does take you into the unreliable world of the eye witness.
People are notoriously unreliable. Every police investigator or prosecuting attorney will tell you this. People are biased. They take sides. They want to believe certain things as much as they want to avoid believing others.
How then do you find the facts when the time comes to research a controversial topic?
When I wrote up the individual cases featured in Black Lives Matter, I paid less attention to eye witnesses than I paid to crime scene evidence and forensics. Time signatures on 911 calls were more reliable than best friends. Chemistry trumps the opinions of neighbors. Where and what was scattered around? It tells the story much more accurately than any human being.
That isn’t to say that I ruled out eye witnesses. But when I read eye witness accounts, I looked for people who weren’t likely to agree. What details did a police witness give? What about someone who supported the victim? Why did I look for these two sides? Because they don’t want to agree. When they do, you’ve most likely found fact.
Yes, researching something controversial takes time but you are piecing together a story that is buried under emotion and opinion, fear and hate.