Fake News, Acronyms, and Evaluating Online Information

          A couple of days ago the morning coffee group in Bowbells were arguing about whether Dolly Parton had died or not. Someone had seen an online news article about it. I can’t even count the times my wife has shown me Facebook “news” posts about Clint Eastwood dying. During the heavy snowstorm in October I saw a “Breaking News” article about a major traffic accident with multiple vehicles and injuries on Highway 5 in Ward County. I thought “If this just happened we might be getting an ambulance page”. I clicked on the link and discovered that it was something that happened in British Columbia several years ago. These “news” events are fairly easy to search for and validate or invalidate.

Advertisements of new soil health products and enhanced fertilizers are sometimes harder to track down and separate research based products from the “too good to be true”.

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist writes about evaluating online information in this week’s edition of her column Prairie Fare.

Prairie Fare: Try this tool to evaluate online information
The CRAAP test is a set of criteria to help people evaluate information

We encounter a variety of abbreviations and acronyms in our daily life. Some of this shorthand may appear in text messages, on websites and from a variety of media.

My kids think I am from the dinosaur age when I say “what?” in response to a text. They are probably ROFL and thinking YOLO.  

By the way, that means they are “rolling on the floor laughing.” Sometimes they remind me that “you only live once.”

I may use CDC or USDA when I provide references to national sources. WHO provides international health information.

As you probably know, these acronyms stand for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Agriculture. WHO is short for the World Health Organization.

In teaching about food safety, I sometimes use acronyms such as FATTOM to help people remember the items that promote bacterial growth or deter bacteria from growing.

FATTOM is short for food, acidity, temperature, time, oxygen and moisture. FIFO refers to the rule of “first in first out” when storing food.

Many of us gather information from lots of sources, especially websites. As we look for accurate information now and into the new year, I came upon a memorable acronym. It’s called the “CRAAP test” and is used widely in universities.

Yes, that is the correct spelling, and I didn’t make this up. You can pronounce it however you would like.

Librarians at California State University-Chico developed the CRAAP checklist to help people evaluate information, especially from websites. CRAAP is short for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose.

In evaluating the currency of information, check when the information was published, revised and updated. Information changes rapidly and 20-year-old website information may not meet today’s standards.

In regard to the relevance, think about the intended audience and whether the information answers your questions. Is the information at the appropriate level (not too easy and not overly complex) for your needs?

In terms of the authority, check the sources of the information and the author’s credentials. Look at the domain suffix on the website address. Information from educational entities, such as universities, typically end in .edu and government websites end in .gov.

Next evaluate the accuracy of the information. What is the source of the information?

Is the information unbiased and based on evidence from research sources?

Last, and maybe most importantly from my perspective, consider the purpose of the information. Is the purpose to inform you, entertain you or sell you something? Be sure the information is objective and not based on someone’s opinion.

Considering research-based information, I have something to offer for 2024. We at NDSU Extension and the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences have developed “Nourish.” This program provides North Dakota adults, especially those age 50 and older in rural counties, with information and strategies about nourishing their bodies and minds.

Participants in the series will learn how to eat more nutritiously and be more physically active to help reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. The program is free of charge both online (in self-paced modules) and face-to-face in many rural North Dakota counties through county Extension.

Participants can benefit by signing up for the program to learn ways to maintain health and well-being. As a part of the program, they will set personal goals for taking the learning to implementation in their daily lives. Participants can listen to short videos created by our experts, and complete puzzles, games and quizzes. The activities keep learners engaged and help make the program meaningful.

We pilot-tested the program, primarily online in fall 2023, and our participants were very positive about their experiences. Register for Nourish at www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/programs/nourish. More counties add their offerings regularly.

This colorful salad makes a nice accompaniment to meals and the variety of ingredients will nourish your body. You can personalize the salad with your choice of salad greens and dressing.

Leafy Greens with Apples, Feta Cheese and Nuts

2½ cups spring greens (or your favorite greens)
1 small apple, cut into thin slices (with skin)
½ cup red grapes, sliced lengthwise
1/8 cup crumbled feta
¼ cup toasted walnut halves (or your favorite nuts)
Salad dressing (of choice)

Rinse greens thoroughly under running water. In a large bowl, toss greens, apples and grapes together. Pour favorite dressing over the fruit and lettuce, and toss again to combine. Top salad with feta crumbles and toasted walnuts. Serve immediately.

Makes two servings. Each serving (without salad dressing) has 180 calories, 12 grams (g) fat, 5 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 115 milligrams sodium.