Monday, August 7, 2017

Spotting fake news and finding reliable information for speeches

The August 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine contains a four-page article by Teresa R. Faust, library director at the College of Central Florida, starting on page 22 titled Fake News is in the News. Keep it Out of Your Speeches (Learn how to find reliable information online).

It’s a useful article, but there’s more that can be said both about fake news and finding reliable information. You can find links to more web pages about fake news in an American Library Association article from February 23, 2017 titled News: Fake News: A Library Resource Round-Up.

Fake News About Fear of Public Speaking

Teresa didn’t give any specific examples of fake news about public speaking. I know of two sets of web pages with fake statistics about fear of public speaking which should be avoided. Unfortunately both of them are on web sites with excellent search engine optimization (SEO) skills. When you try to find a startling statistic for opening your speech, a Google search for public speaking fear statistics will likely deliver them on the first page of results.

The first of these is two pages from 2012 at the Statistic Brain web site for Fear of Public Speaking Statistics and Fear/Phobia Statistics. Both claim to list percentages from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). But Statistic Brain is just a statistical medicine show, and that’s NOT where those numbers came from! The phony claim that 74% fear public speaking is much higher than the 21.2% found in the NIMH-supported National Comorbidity Survey - Replication, which I blogged about way back in June 2009. 

The second one is a Magnetic Speaking blog post from December 13, 2016 by Peter Khoury titled 7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics. I blogged about it on December 15, 2016 in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking. Back on March 28, 2011 I had blogged about how 24%, or Almost 1 in 4 Swedes fears public speaking. But when Peter looked at that article he didn’t report that obvious statistic. Instead he said that for Sweden a total of 15.6% have social phobia, and he multiplies by 0.894 to get that 13.5% of Swedes fear public speaking. (His multiplier came from an article on epidemiology of social phobia which had studied people around Florence, Italy). His ‘calculation’ just is silly.

Finding Reliable Information Online for Your Speeches

Teresa’s article also discusses finding information. Curiously she didn’t refer to the previous two-page article in the June 2014 Toastmaster magazine by Margaret Montet titled Don’t Rely on the Web (visit a library for sophisticated research tools). On February 24, 2015 I replied to that article with a long blog post titled How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries).

In it I described a more powerful strategy for learning how to use your public library - look at the web site for your state university library, whose databases also will include those at your public library. Every term that university will get another batch of students enrolled in their introductory public speaking or communications course. They likely already have developed a web page with a specific guide for that course, or a more general one on communication. (I gave an example for every state). 

The image of fake news came from a March 18, 1897 Puck magazine cover at the Library of Congress.

1 comment:

ken white said...

Timely article! Great insight!!! It was very interesting! Thank you!

Kenny White