Saturday, May 06, 2006

A case study in web credibility

I was just checking on the news when I saw a startling headline from the Times of London: 'Israel foils plot to kill Palestinian president.' I clicked through to the story, got the basics, then went back to Google News to see what other news sources had to say about it.

I couldn't find any. Google News said the story had been posted 55 minutes earlier. But there was nothing else on Google News about it, nor was there any mention on CNN, The New York Times, or Al Jazeera.

So I decided to wait a few hours and check back -- if it's true, I thought to myself, other news sources will pick up the story.

That thought made me realize something: web credibility isn't about trusting any single source of news. As my husband said when I explained this to him, it's about trusting news sources in the aggregate. I don't have to decide if I think the Times is a sufficiently credible source to believe the story despite the lack of other evidence. I just have to trust in the news media (new and old) as a whole.

And I do. I don't think any one news source is completely credible; but I do believe that, given the breadth and depth with of information at our fingertips, the truth will come out in the end. That's a comforting thought.

Update: There have now been a few stories in other international papers about the assassination attempt, but they all seem to quote The Times report. Even Ha'aretz couldn't independently confirm the report. For now, this story has to be relegated to the realm of rumor.