Anyone who tracks federal legislation is familiar with the CQ brand.  By contrast to cable news –CQ offers old fashioned sober Walter Cronkite style reporting focused on the nuances of federal  legislation, policy and lobbying. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the book launch party which featured a panel of the book’s contributors .

Panelists: Bryan Monroe, Fran Sesno and Ellen Shearer

According to CQ’s “President ‘Paul McHale  “CQ is in the truth business.” Congressional Quarterly was founded in 1945 by Nelson Poynter  who recognized that “the federal government will never set up an adequate agency to check on itself.” CQ  was created to keep government accountable and transparent.

I have never thought that the truth was completely obvious. And certainly the entire legal profession is built on a  search for the truth. Corporations spend millions of dollars and hire the best lawyers to argue for their version of the truth– so truth is not always as apparent as we would like it to be. Twitter has become a heaving sea of partisan and often looney swill. Journalists are no longer the gate keepers and much of what we have come to know as cable “ news” is  a live and unedited free-for-all where guests can get away with false statements without being challenged. One of the “Truth Counts” panelists even pointed out that  cable stations such a CNN confuse their audiences by having panels which combine news reporters an opinion commentators. CNN is blurring the line between fact and opinion!

Truth Counts is a fairly compact book– 167 pages supported by 15 pages of footnotes. Chapters  discuss how changes in technology, the economics of media, the growth of tribalism and algorithms have  exacerbated the challenge of recognizing reliable information. The first chapter of the book starts by deconstructing Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s  now over-used  line “everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to his own facts.”   The next time you hear it consider the following: people are also “entitled to select their own facts and doing so is a prerequisite of logic and argumentation.”

The Fake News Checklist: The book recommends that consumers develop a news checklist to help them spot fake news.

  • Don’t share or retweet stories unless you know and trust the source. If you don’t know  the  organization which created the content, do research to find out more background, such as who funds the site and who advertises there
  • Use Fact checking sites such as Politifact to see if the organization or site has a reputation for bad reporting
  • Look at the particulars of a story. Is there a date and a byline? These are indicators of legitimate news stories.
  • Pay attention to ads— pop up ads and sensational headlines are a red flag
  • Read laterally. As you read open new tabs and  search for additional sources which validate or dispute the facts in the story.

I would of course add to this list: hire a librarian. we live and breathe content quality. One of the most valuable things I learned in getting my MLS was the series of factors a professional librarian  uses to assess the quality of any resources. What is the track record of the publisher? How often is it updated? Does it provide accurate references to primary sources?……

Truth Counts  will be supplemented with Podcasts and other digital  conversations to assess truth issues ahead of the fall elections.