Do Information Science and Media Professionals Have a Duty to Provide Evidence-Based Information to a Questioning Public?

Evidence-Based Practice in the Library Setting

Information specialist Andrew Booth defines evidence-based library practice as “an approach to information science that promotes the collection, interpretation, and integration of valid, important and applicable user-reported, librarian-observed, and research-derived evidence. The best available evidence moderated by user needs and preferences, is applied to improve the quality of professional judgments.”[17]

The journal Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice is now in its fifth year of publication, and is reporting advances in everything from the peer review of electronic search strategies to critical appraisal checklists[18] that test the validity of study design, data collection, and outcomes.

The Fifth International Evidence Based Library & Information Practice Conference declared:

  • that “information literacy is a fundamental human right,”
  • the need to address “ineffective comprehension and use of information that continue to plague human society,”
  • the profession’s responsibility “to remain in touch with the evidence base for library and information practice,”
  • “a professional imperative – a need to demonstrate that by making our services more evidence based we can make a difference.”[19]

Librarians thus strive to operate in the real world, using evidence-based librarianship (EBL) as applied science.  And science is a state of mind: questioning, open, balanced, respectful of evidence, and on the alert for bias.

Evidence-Based Practice in the Media Setting

Newspapers are facing bankruptcy[20] in the wake of the Internet and social media revolutions, and must adapt or die. This is particularly true with regard to the resounding silence about the 9/11 controversy in the American press.  In the face of vigilant on-the-spot citizen videotaping and wiki-leaks of official wrong-doing, it no longer suffices to simply hand off government and corporate newswire releases as the dominant source of reality.

A paternal top-down corporate-owned press no longer constructs the political reality. The global Internet brain, with its synapses firing through Google, YouTube, Facebook and a host of other social media, is gutting the media monopoly over our collective sense of reality.

A monumental correction is in progress, and deservedly so.

The media has failed to ask the tough questions in time:  about 9/11, the illegal Middle East wars, Katrina, and the banking scandals.

The media underestimated its truth-hungry consumers – insulted them by withholding analysis and historical context – and now the hunt for reality on serious issues has led to grassroots sources that go far beyond the old “he said, she said” and “yellow journalism” models that have been offered up as good enough.

Philip Meyer, Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of North Carolina, and author of “The Vanishing Newspaper,” foresees the newspaper of the future as a virtual textbook model of evidence-based practice:

“The newspapers that survive will probably do so with some kind of hybrid content: analysis, interpretation and investigative reporting in a print product that appears less than daily, combined with constant updating and reader interaction on the Web.”[21]

Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC’s World Service and Global News, states, “I maintain we need evidence, fact-based reporting more than ever in a world awash with information, rumour, and opinion.”[22]

In summary:  To address the sensitive issues of national security and foreign policy, society requires, from its library science and media professionals, reliable evidence-based information that will satisfy the public responsibility to judge and act upon the critical issues at hand.

4. Public interest in 9/11 information:  What do the polls show?

There have been dozens of reputable polls, in the United States, Canada, and other countries, measuring public beliefs about responsibility for 9/11.[23]

These polls consistently show that 30-40% of people either doubt the official story, or believe that the US government allowed the attacks to happen, or that the government was directly complicit.

A 2006 Time Magazine article reported:

“A Scripps-Howard poll of 1,010 adults last month found that 36% of Americans consider it “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that government officials either allowed the attacks to be carried out or carried out the attacks themselves. Thirty-six percent adds up to a lot of people. This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality.”[24]

A 2008 World Public Opinion poll of 17 nations outside the United States found that majorities in only nine of the countries believe Al Qaeda carried out the attacks.[25]

In contrast to this widespread public skepticism, very little of the scientific literature on 9/11 (which is listed in Part 6 below) has been reviewed in the mainstream press.  The public has thus had minimal access to research materials in libraries (owing to the absence of reviews) or to balanced media investigations into the emerging evidence.

The demand for such information may be seen by searching the Google News Archive for “9/11 truth”.[26] The top-ranked article for 2010 dealt with 18 case studies of objective European, British and Canadian mainstream treatments of 9/11 during the past year.[27]

I turn now to the question of the ethical responsibility of media and information professionals to offer an evidence-based approach to the 9/11 debate that is rumbling along below the radar.

5. The ethics of delivering evidence-based journalism and library services on the events of September 11

On the home page for the American Library Association (ALA) “Code of Ethics is written:

“Ethical dilemmas occur when values are in conflict.”[28]

Indeed, values come into sudden grim conflict when a person looks squarely, for the first time, at the (largely unreported) evidence surrounding the 9/11 attacks.

Doubts about September 11th, which bears the hallmark characteristics of a false flag operation,[29] constitute precisely the sort of dilemma that codes of ethics were designed to handle.