Whose News Can You Trust?: A Framework for Evaluating the Credibility of Online News Sources for Diaspora Populations

Whose News Can You Trust?: A Framework for Evaluating the Credibility of Online News Sources for Diaspora Populations

Rick Malleus (Seattle University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6114-1.ch015
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Abstract

This chapter proposes a framework for analyzing the credibility of online news sites, allowing diaspora populations to evaluate the credibility of online news about their home countries. A definition of credibility is established as a theoretical framework for analysis, and a framework of seven elements is developed based on the following elements: accuracy, authority, believability, quality of message construction, peer review, comparison, and corroboration. Later, those elements are applied to a variety of online news sources available to the Zimbabwean diaspora that serves as a case study for explaining the framework. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the framework in relation to some contextual circumstances of diaspora populations and presents some limitations of the framework as diaspora populations might actually apply the different elements.
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Introduction

Metzger (2007) suggested people need to “know when and how to exercise” (p. 2089) the skills needed to evaluate credibility of information on the Internet. No matter what framework a user applies to evaluate the credibility of online news, it is important to realize that user motivation is key (Metzger, 2007). As a responsible global citizen, users of online news need to make an effort to seek out online sources of news that are credible, recognizing the “negative consequences of misinformation online” (Metzger, 2007, p. 2089). Fritch (2003) argued living “in an information-rich, networked world” (p. 327) requires all users to take individual responsibility for making assessments about the credibility of the information they consume.

It can be argued that populations living in a diaspora may have added motivation to seek credible news about their home countries given their concerns about identity maintenance and challenges to that identity maintenance as they live and work in host countries and cultures. In addition, diaspora populations are motivated to seek connections to home, and some of those connections are kept up through the consumption of news. “Under conditions of high motivation, online information seekers will likely pay more attention to information quality cues and perform more rigorous information evaluation than when motivation is lower” (Metzger, Flanagin & Medders, 2010, p. 416).

Kovach and Rosenstiel (2001) argued that the Internet is a medium that increases the need for people to apply judgments to the news that they consume and that a journalist’s role is to help the audience make sense of all the information available online. The aim of the digital literacy movement is, in part to, “assist Internet users in developing the skills needed to critically evaluate online information” (Metzger, 2007, p. 2079). Drawing on findings in the literature, this chapter proposes a framework to help diaspora populations evaluate the credibility of online news about their home countries. Online sources available to those in the Zimbabwean diaspora are used as case study examples to which the framework is applied.

The framework suggests a set of criteria that defines credibility that diaspora populations might use to analyze the credibility of online news about their home countries. These questions, based around the framework, will be explored:

  • Is this true? (Accuracy)

  • Does this source seem qualified? (Authority)

  • Does this news report seem like it is reporting something that could happen? (Believability)

  • Does the report show evidence of professionalism and is it free of obvious errors in form? (Quality of Message Construction)

  • What are other users saying about this site? (Peer Review)

  • Does this source live up to the standards set by other credible sites? (Comparison)

  • Can this information be found on other sites too? (Corroboration)

The objectives of the chapter are to establish criteria for defining credibility, to apply those variables to online news sources available to those living in the Zimbabwean diaspora, and to explain the utility of those ideas for other diaspora populations in making decisions about the credibility of online news about their home countries.

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