Fake news is a problem. But citizens shouldn’t rely on intermediaries when they can get information from primary sources. Nowadays primary sources are just a few clicks away.
For example, to learn how much California really spends on K-12 education, click at the state’s Department of Finance site here to see charts like these:
Page 19, Governor’s Budget Summary 2017–18; http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2017-18/pdf/BudgetSummary/FullBudgetSummary.pdf
Page 28, Governor’s Budget Summary 2017–18
You can also compare budgets. Eg, a few clicks here shows the state spending about the same on the University of California as a decade ago:
Or, see how the state allocates $33 billion in salary and benefit costs:
Appendix 8, Governor’s Budget Summary 2017–18
Page 128, Governor’s Budget Summary 2017–18
If you want to know the state prison population, a few clicks gets you here:
Page 72, Governor’s Budget Summary 2017–18
Or, see how the state spends $155 billion on health and human services:
Page 51, Governor’s Budget Summary 2017–18
And much more. It’s easier than ever to access primary sources.
Of course, primary sources aren’t always truthful. One of the most consequential examples took place in 1964 when, as reported by the New York Times, US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announced that North Vietnamese vessels had launched an unprovoked attack on U.S. destroyers in in the Gulf of Tonkin. Four days later, Congress authorized US President Lyndon Johnson to use force. One million people died in the following conflict. 39 years later, McNamara admitted he hadn’t been truthful in 1964. At the state government level, officials use alternative facts to create debts that force harsh cuts to schools and other services. In such cases media and citizens must go beyond official sources to the fullest extent possible.