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UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation
By Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Random House, $13)

Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson serve as guides to seekers of truth and accuracy. They are involved with a website, FactCheck.org, that aims to help. The site is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, where Jamieson, a professor of communication, serves as director. Jackson is a veteran investigative journalist (Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, CNN).

Given all the misinformation available via the Internet, it is, perhaps, surprising that Jackson and Jamieson, the authors of UnSpun, offer it as the main solution to misinformation - "if you use it very carefully." Jackson and Jamieson explain the tactics of liars, describe the psychological traps that lots of people fall into and which lead them to believe the lies, and offer an approachable lecture about how to distinguish credible evidence from misleading random anecdotes.

Among the tips the authors give about using online information wisely:
• Always assume anonymous/untraceable claims are untrue until they're proven otherwise.
• Seek out more-or-less objective federal government websites (such as those listing census data or offering accurate transcripts of speeches).
• Rely on organizations such as the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, that are not beholden to advertisers or to special interests.
After all, you have to trust someone.

-- S.W.