A Position of Authority Does Not an Authoritative Source Make

One of the ongoing debates in media of late has been whether news outlets should interview people with a track record of overt deception. The argument goes that on the one hand, some of these people are in positions of authority, and that title alone makes them experts of a sort whose views should be part of the conversation. On the other hand, willfully spreading objective untruths sours the conversation before it can really begin.

Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, the media uses the word “expert” more liberally than the definition warrants. For example, often the title is applied to people who currently or recently work at for-profit think tanks that might have an explicit political bias. There isn’t always enough time during the interview to explore this context, and many outlets simply leave that responsibility to the viewer.

To put this conversation in the academic context, I’ll refer to the Association for College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework, particularly what it has to say about the concept of Authority.

“Authority Is Constructed and Contextual”

In short, the authority of a speaker, be they scholar or public servant, should be evaluated on an ongoing and contextual basis. Gaining the skills to accurately evaluate experts—and to be able to make informed choices with regard to the information they present—is a big part of the push to increase critical thinking and information literacy instruction on campuses around the country.

Watch the video below to learn more about what constitutes authority and how information seekers should assess it!

Do you have the critical thinking skills needed to get to the real truth? Learn more about how to bypass fake sources and test your information literacy skills with Credo Education’s fake news test