Magazine article Information Today

Finding and Verifying News

Magazine article Information Today

Finding and Verifying News

Article excerpt

Free news is everywhere. For-fee services are becoming more important, which is a strange twist in online access that many researchers may ignore. Folks ask me whether Bing News, Google News, and Yahoo! News are everything a researcher needs.

Well, my answer is no. Free and for-fee news search systems are needed more now than at any other time in online history. But what concerns me is that many people become cheerleaders for these popular web news services. The news services are compelling, but appearances and assumptions can be deceiving.

The glowing screens of mobile devices put news front and center. With the startling developments in Syria and the upheavals at Microsoft, news is perceived to be here and now, immediate, constantly updated, and a mix of text, images, and video. We swim in a digital world 24/7/365, with powerful content trawlers such as Bing and Google snagging the most useful content.

Taking the Pulse

One of my clients requested something that sparked my interest in what news is available online. I looked at Pulse, owned by LinkedIn. Pulse is a collection of tiles or cards arranged to make flipping through headlines and short bits of text quick, easy, and painless. A tap displays either the full story or a segment. The system makes it easy to graze, which is compelling. A Pulse user can munch on stories throughout the day, and frequent updates give Pulse the look and feel of up-to-the-minute content.

FlipBook is similar to Pulse in that it is a service that displays tiles or cards for sources. When I explored FlipBook, I configured the system to show me content from The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, both U.K. newspapers, and popular information services such as Boingo. Each time I ran the app on my iPad, the tiles refreshed themselves. FlipBook makes my hard copy of The Wall Street Journal look tired, stale, and somewhat irrelevant.

When I downloaded Zite, the service struck me as a variation on Pulse and FlipBook. I tapped and clicked to tell Zite my interests. The system promptly displayed a magazine-style layout, which was a refreshing departure from the tiles/cards approach that I found less useful for my method of learning about timely content.

The other services I explored offered a bit of repetition, with many of the same sources and stories. The overall visual presentation was similar, if not the same. Getting a sense of a story's length was impossible for me. It was annoying to find a mix of complete stories and links to sources that didn't have stories available in the apps.

Tracking the News

But news is everywhere and nowhere. The seeming paradox intrigued me. I went looking for sources of timely, allegedly reliable information on current topics. What I discovered was both encouraging and troubling. News is ubiquitous. Whether you use the news services of Google, Bing, or Yahoo!, each provides a colorful interface. Hotlinks to news collections on sports, entertainment, science, and business are plentiful. Important stories warrant an image or a callout. When Miley Cyrus twerked, these high-traffic news sites grabbed the story and pushed the information in considerable detail.

However, when I went looking for information about the chemical suppliers to the Syrian government, not many news sources were reporting much on it. And I had no luck when I tried to pin down which of the three Medicare contractors that were responsible for investigating fraud had their contracts revoked. I tried to find current information about the head of the Google Glass project, but I learned that none of the sources noticed that there were three different versions of his name: Babak Parvis, Babak Parviz, and Babak Amirparviz (sometimes, Amir Parviz). I tried to figure out exactly which breaking Guardian story containing information allegedly from a former Booz Allen professional was available each day. In each of these sample news queries, I learned that information may not be current or available, and it can be difficult to filter by data. …

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