If you’ve ever Googled a common cold symptom and come away thinking you have only hours to live, then you have a good idea about how information that’s not vetted and put into context can lead you astray.

How about when you run across one of those RIP memes of a beloved celebrity and post it on Facebook for all your friends to see, prompting your friends to do the same? And then five minutes later you find out that it was a hoax.

We are living in a time in which we have more information available to us than ever before. The problem is that it’s getting harder to distinguish between good information and bad information. People prefer information that confirms their pre-existing attitudes and will share or retweet, and the misinformation will take off. According to a recent study by Sinan Aral of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, false news stories were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories were.

Why this is a problem

According to Aral, “Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information.”

Add to this the fact that anyone can create a blog and fill it with content that seeks to fortify the opinion of his or her base. Online image makers are free and anyone who has a smartphone can make up a fact, post it on social media and have it shared by thousands of people in order to drive public opinion against their enemies.

Media reliability map

Vanessa Otero, a patent attorney, created a media chart in 2011, updated every year, that breaks down various media sources by reliability and political viewpoint. Here’s the most recent map.

In an interview with MarketWatch, Otero said: “I think the extremes are very toxic and damaging to the country. These extreme sources play on people’s worst instincts, like fear and tribalism, and take advantage of people’s confirmation biases.”

Enter the reputable local news source

So Insider Louisville is an online site, what makes it different? First, the reporters at Insider Louisville are not beholden to any corporate owner and are not pushing a particular agenda. As an independent nonprofit, our donors’ contributions allow us the freedom to report fair and unbiased content. We are responsible only to our mission.

Local reporting matters and plays an essential role in creating the conditions for a functioning democratic civil society.

The reporters at Insider Louisville dig deep into the issues, verify their information, and back it all up with input from experts in the field. They stimulate a local conversation about the issues that affect Louisville citizens the most, and help introduce change if it’s needed.

If you want to see a prime example of how local media can start a conversation about a local issue and keep everyone in the information loop, look no further than the recent Medicaid overhaul proposed by Governor Matt Bevin. Once readers were educated about the specifics of the proposal, including strict new requirements, it opened a dialogue and changed the landscape.

With Insider Louisville, you can come to depend on in-depth reporting in which we explain how our local economy works, how government programs are performing, and so on.

Support local news you can trust

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Insider Louisville

Insider Louisville

At Insider Louisville, we dig deeper, ask more questions, and seek experts to add analysis and context to the issues that our readers – Louisville’s stakeholders – care about the most. Our mission is to inform these readers with impactful, public-service journalism so that they can help shape outcomes. Our goal is to raise the level of civic engagement in our communities and to be an indispensable source of information about local business, government, education, health, and culture.