Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
Look for sources that use specific language. For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully. Go to step six.
Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
Recently, someone questioned my use of the word “ableism” to describe society’s tendency to favor typical people over those with disabilities. It’s a real thing, y’all. For example, everyone can use a ramp (including people with handcarts, strollers, etc) but only the able-bodied can use stairs. In spite of this obvious fact, stairs are the rule rather than the exception, often limiting where people with disabilities can work, live, eat, shop, worship, go to school, socialize and pretty much everything everyone else does..
Inevitably, when I start talking about this sort of thing, someone will feel compelled to tell me a story about how their brother’s girlfriend’s neighbor knew a guy (not a guy, a kid. It’s always a kid), who overcame his disability and learned to drag himself up the stairs, and he’s SUCH an inspiration.
The only thing a story like that should inspire you to do is demand more practical accessibility standards so no one has to resort to becoming a spectacle.
We appreciate your support, but I’ll take dignity and independence over fleeting, warm fuzzy admiration any day.
The tiniest shifts in our thinking could bring about big change. For example, the phrase “wheelchair bound” makes the chair seem like a ball and chain when it’s really a liberator. When I couldn’t walk at all, I was never more bound than when I was out of my chair because without it I couldn’t move around independently. Even though I can walk now, I still need my chair to do things like go to the grocery store. Think of it as a valuable tool rather than an unfortunate weight. I couldn’t function without it. It gives me independence and a larger degree of autonomy. Does that sound “bound” to you?