Heavy Research

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I tried to catch up on a backlog of reading over the weekend since I was in no shape to do much of anything else. One of the piles contained this month’s Wired Magazine and I had to good sense in the midst of my delirium to tear out an item that caught my eye. For those of you playing along with our home game, it’s on page 18 of the April 2011 issue and is called “Heavy Research.” Besides reminding us of a fundamental part of real journalism it also makes an excellent business point as well.

Here is the gist of the piece:

For every fact in every story in this magazine, there exists a source:  a person or record that backs up the claim.

It goes on to talk about the physical dimensions of the fact-check folders which, for complicated articles such as this one about Amy Bishop, might weigh 10 or more pounds and be several inches thick.  Your reaction to that might be “well, of course they do – they’re journalists” but let’s stop and think for a minute.  How many of the information sources that you consume each day have the same sort of documentation?  Of those which you think do have it, how many have actually done the work themselves and how many are just aggregating the work of others with no attention paid as to whether THAT source was doing fact-checking?

And that’s the problem, both for news and for business.  It’s fantastic that any of us can find information about almost anything within a few clicks.  The problem is that we don’t bother to dig deeper – we don’t see if our sources have their own fact-check folders and heavy piles of research.

It’s a real dichotomy.  Because information is so accessible, good, accurate, reliable information is often overwhelmed by noise and made less accessible.  I think a huge part of our jobs both as managers and as citizens, is to figure out who has the heavy research and act only on those sources.

What do you think?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

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