••Letter to the Editor••
It is always important to fact-check your sources, particularly when verifying them is as simple as searching the Internet. In an environment where so many writers just want to get what they're working on done and turned in, it can be easy to accept information we see at face value and incorporate it into our own work, without ever verifying its accuracy. As an example, a recent story about an abortion law in Arizona made its rounds on the Internet and in print. The story claimed that the law stated life began two weeks before conception. In reality, the law never defines when life beings. It only uses the "last menstrual period before conception" marker in defining the term "gestational age" - which is the medically accepted definition for that term. That false claim about the law made its way into many legitimate news sites such as www.HuffingtonPost.com and even The Stylus, in the Wednesday, April 17 opinion article titled "Contraception bill defies biological laws."
It would have been easy enough to search for the law and read it first hand. It took me only 10 minutes to find it (Arizona SB2036) and read it through. Granted, I am a law student, but I don't think it would have taken the writer of this article much longer to do the same. Further, the fact remains that this doesn't just happen at Huffington Post and The Stylus; even fellow law students get caught doing it in formal arguments. Individuals make claims about laws and cases, having never actually read them themselves. I think it's just as dangerous for aspiring lawyers to do this as it is for aspiring journalists. We both take it upon ourselves to be, in a sense, the gatekeepers of information. We both have an obligation to our audience to personally take the extra few minutes and verify what we write is accurate.
And for our respective audiences, it doesn't hurt to verify what you've heard either, before telling another about it. It could save you from embarrassment later on.
SUNY Brockport '11
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