Journalism student Lauren Yang Brown is among eight college students nationwide selected by media groups Poynter and MediaWise to be “campus correspondents.” They’ve been trained to help peers spot misinformation online and in social media. Oregon Quarterly tested Brown in sniffing out the truth of four “fowl” facts:
1. A duck’s quack doesn’t echo.
LYB: FALSE. Her tip: “There are three big questions to consider when reading information online: Who’s behind that information? What’s the evidence to support the fact? And who are the sources?
“There were lots of credible websites like Snopes.com and Politifact.com, all citing a study from the University of Salford, England, that the duck quack does have an echo. You want multiple sources for confirmation, and academic papers are good, too.”
2. According to an urban legend, ducks “sleep with one eye open.”
LYB: TRUE. Her tip: “A lot of the sources I checked cited a study of the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute, and in that study they found that ducks do, in fact, sleep with one eye open. So again, the three questions: Who’s behind the information? An accredited institution. What’s the evidence? They watched the ducks sleep, in a peer-reviewed article. And what are the other sources saying? They’re confirming the same information."
3. There once was a mother duck with . . . 77 ducklings.
LYB: FALSE. Her tip: “When it comes to news outlets, they do a decent job. They’re not always the best, but this story was heavily reported by lots of newspapers. It was a very cute, feel-good story—but every single news site said there 76 ducklings, not 77. When all of them are saying the same thing, that’s pretty trustworthy.”
4. According to an urban legend, The Duck once jumped out of an airplane.
LYB: TRUE. Her tip: “When you’re doing a keyword search, sometimes you have to be creative. I tried ‘Puddles the Duck jumps out of airplane,’ and was getting nothing. But then I looked up ‘Puddles the Duck skydiving,’ and that confirmed through various news sites—ESPN, Business Insider, USA Today—that not only did The Duck skydive during the ESPN College GameDay show in 2012, but it lost its costume head midair.”