The world seems to be on information overload concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19). Everyone has an opinion, and the information you receive changes hourly. How do you determine the validity, accuracy, godliness and helpfulness of a news or media source?
Brennan Hallock, OUTLOOK magazine contributor, has developed several questions you should ask to test the information you receive. These questions should be looked at collectively—no single question can determine the viability of an article, but collectively they can help determine its accuracy.
- Does the article have a named author?
Look at other work by the same author. Is their other writing uplifting, accurate, and well-written. What is their reputation? Google their name and see what other (credible) sites are saying about their work.
- Who are the sources?
Is there a source list given? If so, are they credible, uplifting, and well-written? When sources are referred to in the article, are their real names given? Or are they referred to as “some people,” “another source,” or another vague term?
- Does it have solid grammar?
A trustworthy source will be proofread, which means it will have very few—if any—grammatical errors. It should especially be free of misspellings, homophones, and poorly structured sentences. Many untrustworthy sites are set up by foreign entities whose native language is not English, meaning grammar errors like homophones and poorly structured sentences (that spell checks do not find) will be missed.
- Is the article presenting the author’s opinion or researched fact?
Many articles simply contain one person’s opinion presented in a way that may seem like fact. If it has no sources given, if it is listed as op ed or something similar, or if it is written from a first-person perspective, then look more deeply into its statements.
- Are both sides of the argument presented fairly?
A well-written source will give both sides of an argument the same amount of attention and detail, leaving the reader to come to their own conclusion about an argument. Just because both sides of an argument are presented, though, does not guarantee accuracy. It matters how the other side of an opinion is presented. If one side is presented as truth with lots of reinforcing facts and the other side as false with weak or manipulative facts, then the author likely has an agenda.
- What is the author’s agenda?
If the author is someone whose agenda is to promote a certain view, then when they are promoting that view they will likely only present facts that support that view, rather than presenting a balanced view of an argument. Everyone has an agenda, but as the reader you need to find out what that agenda is.
- What is the host site’s reputation?
Do you recognize who is publishing the article? Are they well-known or not? Look at the other articles on the host site. Are they credible and balanced?
- Does the author take a closed approach or open approach to the topic?
If the author presents an argument, then presents his/her response to the argument to be the only true way of solving the argument, this is a red flag. There may be a better or best way of solving an argument, but not always a right or wrong way. This shows a clearly biased approach.
- How does the author refer to people who disagree with him/her?
What language does the author use in reference to people of an opposing opinion, different culture, different religion, or who are somehow separated from him/her? If the author uses prejudiced or derogatory language, it is a clear sign the article is not trustworthy, the author is biased, and that the intent of the article is to stir up contempt.
Three sources we believe are credible:
Adventist Risk Management
If you are a Seventh-day Adventist denominational employee, then you should look to ARM for information regarding travel, insurance coverages, and tips for preventing the spread of this serious disease.
AdventHealth has launched a coronavirus information site for the Adventist Church with videos covering topics like prevention, symptoms, spread and some special considerations for congregations, in addition to FAQs, blogs and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources. Future episodes will be posted as they learn more about the virus and will have additional updates.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC provides interim guidelines for faith-based organizations who have questions about what to do in regards to the coronavirus disease for community- and faith-based organizations. They provided planning and strategy tips for organizations that may include vulnerable populations.
These are three organizations that meet the Godly Source Test. There are others, but these three should be considered as you ask God for discernment during these uncertain times.
We should always remember that God gives us strength, power, and peace.
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10, NKJV).
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7, NKJV).
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27, NKJV).