Written by: Kjetil Manheim
In the Nordic languages there is an expression used to describe when something bad looks very similar to something good but are very different and to distinguish the two is very difficult. The expression is “Aa skille skitt fra kanel” or in English; to tell dirt from cinnamon.
There are similar expressions in the English language, like i.e. telling chalk from cheese but they do not fully carry the same meaning. To distinguish dirt from cinnamon has an implicit assertion that one of the two are bad which the chalk and cheese expression does not. You could argue that to know shit from Shinola is close to the same but that expression is usually used in negative constructions to describe someone’s ignorance or stupidity. To distinguish dirt from cinnamon does not presuppose this. It is equally difficult to distinguish dirt from cinnamon regardless of your level of intelligence or degree of awareness.
The parable to today’s world of digital information flow and social media is obvious. The world is full of false information, fake news, distorted and twisted content. Some of it is published with malicious intent and some by share ignorance or even stupidity from the publishers. Some is just biased and incomplete when it comes to tell the whole story, and some is only people parroting telltales and urban myths and rumors giving life support to lies and false information.
To distinguish what is what, and who is who is increasingly difficult. To distinguish the good and credible content from the bad and twisted is not easy and we turn to trusted sources to navigate through it all.
Trusted sources could be news publishers you trust or a public research institution. It could be the government or a friend. It is all depended on where you live and what sources you have accessible that you can trust. They all have one thing in common though; they all depend on your own judgment.
Our judgment is easily manipulated so we cannot trust our judgment alone when we try to distinguish if a source is trustworthy or not, so we tend to limit our sources risking digging ourselves deep into a bubble of like-mindedness and biased information. Adfontes media and their Media Bias Chart is giving us a great mapping tool for professional media to help us navigate and prevent us from “making bubbles”. We hope it will continue to develop and cover all media in the world.
Unfortunately, this is not enough. In our age of information, there are too many sources and publishers. Covering the professional news media is only a fragment of it all. We need tools that help us trust a source on our first encounter with it. Tools that tells me who the publisher is, where he or she get authority on the subject they write about, what other published content they have, who they work for etc. In addition, publishers and individual freelancers want to be able to say, “Trust me” to strangers just like retailers are able to when they ask for their customer’s money before they ship their goods.
If we want a sustainable model for self-publishing and a global market for freelance content makers, we believe we must make it easier for the consumers to know what they read, buy, hear or watch through built in structures embedded in the content and distribution itself that can be trusted without any prior knowledge.