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Communication 1307 - Mercado, Luis: Mass Communications

Print and Broadcast Media - The Information Cycle

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Research is inherent to all forms of Mass Communication whether in journalism, public relations, advertising, film or broadcasting.  In all of these areas, a researching, reader and writer must evaluate the authority and credibility of every source of information.

When choosing a document to support our writing, we must bring a certain amount of skepticism and always be questioning the value of our sources.  Not all sources are created equal and not all sources are worthy to be included in our work.

So how do we know what documents are worthy and valuable and which ones might be questionable in support of our arguments?

We start by:

  • reading like a detective looking for clues to an unsolved crime
  • questioning like a reporter conducting an interview  
  • looking for bias - be suspicious! Bias conveys partiality, favoritism, bigotry, preferences, preconception, and unfairness
  • considering the tone, style, level of information and assumptions made by the author about the reader

The Information Cycle

The Day of an Event

Television, Social Media, and the Web
  • The who, what, when, and where of the event
  • Quick, not detailed, regularly updated
  • Authors are journalists, bloggers, social media participants
  • Intended for general audiences

The Day After an Event

  • Explanations and timelines of the event begin to appear
  • More factual information, may include statistics, quotes, photographs, and editorial coverage
  • Authors are journalists
  • Intended for general audiences

The Week or Weeks After an Event

Weekly Popular Magazines and News Magazines
  • Long form stories begin to discuss the impact on society, culture, and public policy
  • More detailed analysis, interviews, and various perspectives emerge
  • Authors range from journalists to essayists, and commentary provided by scholars and experts in the field
  • Intended for a general audience or specific nonprofessional groups


Six Months to a Year or More After an Event

Academic, Scholarly Journals
  • Focused, detailed analysis and theoretical, empirical research
  • Peer-reviewed, ensuring high credibility and accuracy
  • Authors include scholars, researchers, and professionals
  • Intended for an audience of scholars, researchers, and university students

A Year to Years After an Event

  • In-depth coverage ranging from scholarly in-depth analysis to popular books
  • Authors range from scholars to professionals to journalists
  • Include reference books which provide factual information, overviews, and summaries
Government Reports
  • Reports from federal, state, and local governments
  • Authors include governmental panels, organizations, and committees
  • Often focused on public policy, legislation, and statistical analysis

Credit: University of Illinois - Urbana Campaign

Credit: Gladys Marcus Library / FIT Library / SUNY

Purpose:  Understand that authority is created and based upon context.

Student Learning Activity: Evaluate a variety of sources from the Information Cycle.

Skills:  The activity will guide your practice of evaluating sources with a focus on:

S. 1.   Defining types of authority such as subject expertise, social position, or special experience; 

S. 2.   Recognizing that information may be packaged formally or informally and may include sources of all media types.

S.3.    Understanding the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem where authorities actively connect with one another and sources develop over time.

Knowledge:  This activity will also help you expand the following important knowledge:

K.1  Motivation to find authoritative sources, recognizing that authority may be manifested in unexpected ways;

K.2.  Develop awareness of the importance of assessing content with a skeptical stance.

Evaluate the News

ESCAPE Evidence Source Context Audience Purpose Execution Infographic

Fact Checking or Extreme Vetting!

More Fact Checking Resources

Credit: KT Lowe at Indiana University East

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