"Trust, but verify" was one of Ronald Reagan's favorite lines about dealing with the Soviets during the Cold War.
I think it is also a useful rule-of-thumb when you're doing online research, content creation or passing along and reacting to interesting tidbits you find on social media.
Separate fact from opinion, check the facts, the sources, the numbers, the assertions. Is what you are reading or repeating really true?
But it must be true. It’s on the Internet! (You know that’s a joke, right?)
Old journalism habits die hard and after a lifetime in TV news, I am naturally skeptical at heart. I love a good story same as anyone else, but I don't want to confuse a story with reality. Often if gossip or a rumor gets repeated enough, people assume it is the truth.
I’ve written before about all the copycat cutting and pasting that gets “published” online and ways to be sure what you write, share on social media or put on your website or blog is accurate and legitimate.
Tools like copyscape.com, plagium.com and snopes.com have been on my bookmarks list for years. Another resource I just found out about is called VerificationJunkie.com. It’s a growing collection of tools for checking the facts online. It is not the easiest site to navigate, but it is worth a look. (and maybe a bookmark!)
If you want to prevent errors and misinformation from spreading, don't spread them yourself. Spend a little time with these tools to separate fact from fiction online.