Sources, Credibility, and Social Media: A Ballerina’s Tale

On the web there are various ways for anyone with access to the internet and computer to publish information ranging from non-professional blogs, social media cites and traditional news cites. Long before reading the news online, I first heard about Misty Copeland’s recent historical promotion to principle dancer in the American Ballet Theater casually browsing my Instagram’s timeline. It cannot be argued that mis-information, published intentionally or not, just as much as valuable information, can instantaneously go viral online (Schwab n.d). For that reason, more often I employ the approach of not taking everything I read online at face value-whether it comes from a professional source of non-professional source. Awareness of the need to be critical of what I read online is half the battle and how to determine the credibility of a source is the other.

Retired professor, Virginia Montecin, urges “it is imperative for users of the Web to develop a critical eye to evaluate the credibility of Internet information,” and spells out nine guidelines to assist in evaluating the credibility of online resources in Criteria to Evaluate the Credibility of WWW Resources. My growing interest in Copeland led me to the New York Times article, Misty Copeland on Pushing Ballet’s Boundaries. To evaluate the article’s credibility, I decided to test three of Montecin’s guidelines; seeking out the authors authority on the subject, considering the range of sources used and assessing the kinds of cites the resources come from.

Author’s authority
In the article, Misty Copeland and film-maker Nelson George are interviewed by writer Gia Kourlas. The Interview reveals the inspiration behind the documentary film, A Ballerina’s Tale, which highlights a snapshot in Misty Copeland’s ballet career.

Though an interview, at face value, seemingly is credible, as recommended by Montecin, the first step I took in evaluating the credibility of the article was seeking out the writer’s authority on the subject.

There is not too much out there on the web about Gia Kourlas, accept for her LinkedIn profile claiming twenty years of covering dance ballet as an editor and writer at the New York Times and another magazine. I figure she would have to be pretty bold to claim twenty years at the New York Times on LinkedIn if it were not true. I did not find twenty years of Gia Kourlas’s articles online, however, I came to the conclusion that if Kourlas is a writer for the New York Times, one of America’s penny press papers (Zoch, Supa, & VanTuyll 2014), she must know her stuff.

Range of resources and cites

The next step I took was digging into the cited references in the article. Montecin advices that the critical eye questions if all the resources should come from the web and considers what kinds of cites the information comes from. I did not think an interview about a film needed to included printed or scholarly sources but I did reason a better variety of sources could have been included. In the opening paragraph, Kourlas includes just three web links, “history,” “ American Ballet Theater” and “Nelson George.”

The first link, “history,” took me to yet another New York Times article, Misty Copeland is Promoted to Principal at American Ballet Theater. This article announced Copeland’s history making promotion as the first African American woman principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater. I incorrectly predicted the “history” link would have taken me to an outside source corroborating Copeland’s promotion. The “history” link would have been a perfect spot for the film’s official trailer or the official announcement of Copeland’s promotion on the American Ballet Theater’s website. For sure, I thought that certainly the link to “American Ballet Theater” would take me to the American Ballet Theater website, instead, I landed on a chronology of coverage of the American Ballet Theater by the New York Times.

“Nelson George,” was the last link to explore. This link took me to Nelson George’s personal webpage at nelsondgeorge.net. Although I could not find any information about the film on his cite, I did learn about his other works and found a link to a New York Times article he wrote. My thinking then was, if the article I am examining is about George Nelson’s film and he is also a New York Times writer, then the story has got to be credible.

After tracking the links embedded in the article and learning a little more about the author, I concluded that the article is credible. Gia Kourlas has two decades of experience writing about dance ballet for the New York Times- a paper with longevity and credibility. I did not find any contradictions when cross referencing the article with other sources. Also, I did not believe the article required other cited sources than what can be provided on the web. However, inclusion of a variety web sources such as the link to the official announcement of Copeland’s promotion on The American Ballet Theater cite, Copeland’s personal cite at mistycopeland.com and the official film trailer would have bolstered the credibility of the article and made it a more intriguing read. Lastly, Nelson’s connection to the New York Times, is what I found to be the strongest credible link to the article.

References

American Ballet Theater: Chronology of coverage (n.d). NewYorkTimes.com. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/american_ballet_theater/index.html?inline=nyt-org

ABT News (2015, June 30). Promotions Announced at ABT: Stella Abrera & Misty Copeland promoted to principal dancer: Sklary Brandt, Thomas Forester, Luciana Paris, Arrom Scott & Cassandra Trenary promoted to soloist: Maria Kochetkova & Alban Lendorf to join company as principal dancers; Jeffery Cirio to join as soloist. Americanballettheatre.org. Retrieved from
http://www.abt.org/insideabt/news_display.asp?News_ID=522

Cooper, M. (2015, June 30) Misty Copeland is promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. NewYorkTimes.com. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/01/arts/dance/misty-copeland-is-promoted-to-principal-dancer-at-american-ballet-theater.html

Kourlas, G (2015, October, 7) Misty Copeland on Pushing Ballet’s Boundaries. NewYorkTimes.com. [Interview]. Retrieved from
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/arts/dance/misty-copeland-on-pushing-ballets-boundaries.html?ref=arts&_r=0

Montecin, V (n.d) criteria to evaluate the credibility of www resources. Retrieved from
http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/web-eval-sites.htm

Nelson, G. (2012, August 10) A soul fable, reimaged for a new era. NewYorkTimes.com. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/movies/sparkle-remade-with-jordin-sparks-and-whitney-houston.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Schwab, K (n.d) Global Risks 2013 Eighth Edition. Section Two Digital Wildfires in a Hyperconnected World. Wordeconomicforum.org. Retrieved from
http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2013/risk-case-1/digital-wildfires-in-a-hyperconnected-world/

Video and Photos (n.d) A Ballerina’s Tale. Aballerinastale.com. [Movie Trailer]. Retrieved from http://www.aballerinastale.com/film-trailer/

Zoch, L.M., Supa, D.W., VanTuyll, D.R (2014 November) Special Issue on public relations history 2014: The portrayal of public relations in the era of Ivy Lee through the lens of the New York Times. Public Relations Review. 40(4), 723–732. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.02.002

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