Saturday, February 07, 2009

Information Literacy - New Yorker style

Good to be back online - and hope I can keep with it for a while. Just read a great article by John McPhee - everything I've read by McPhee is good - in New Yorker (Feb 9) on p. 56 called "Checkpoints" about fact-checking. Sorry that the link doesn't give the whole article - just the abstract, but I really encourage you to find it and read it because this is Information Literacy in a whole new light (and by the way, the abstract includes KEYWORDS! Perfect for our first year comp Info Lit assignment this term) McPhee provides several stories of times when the magazine's fact checkers persisted in finding out the truth about the data he includes. He also gives a funny story of when they changed McPhee's story based on comments by an expert on plate tectonics - Eldridge Moores - who actually had a slip of memory, confusing the Adriatic Plate with the Aegean Plate, thus introducing error where none had existed before. The hero of McPhee's story is Sara Lippincott, now retired, who checked facts for years for The New Yorker.

McPhee also reports on the various fact-checking practices of other magazines (variously rigorous) and book publishers (non-existant - it's up to the author to check facts).

All of this is not only fascinating on its own, but especially in connection with the ways we teach information literacy to students at Oregon State. If anyone else reads the article, I would be very interested in reactions.


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