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Getting Started on SourceWatch
(revised and updated by Lisa Graves--original version prepared by Laura Miller)
Imagine that a hypothetical national non-profit organization called "Biosolids for a Solid Future" (BSF) just opened a branch in your town and is promoting the use of biosolids as fertilizer in your community. Having read Toxic Sludge is Good For You, you know "biosolids" is an industry term for sewage sludge and there are health and environmental risks associated with it. But in an op-ed piece in the town paper, a representative from BSF says biosolids are "an inexpensive and green solution for local farmers' and landscapers' fertilizing needs."
Being curious about BSF and Internet-savvy, you start to collect information on the group. After doing a few Internet searches you come across a SourceWatch entry on "biosolids." You also find an article called How to research front groups. From that, you learn how to look up BSF's IRS filings and website domain name registrations. What you discover is that BSF has links to a waste industry trade group. You write a letter-to-the-editor calling BSF a front for the waste industry, inspiring a feisty reporter at the paper to investigate. One thing leads to another, BSF's cover is blown and they quietly close up shop.
A happy ending! Or is it? BSF goes on to open an office in another town in another state. Luckily you've already thought of that and have created a SourceWatch article for Biosolids for a Solid Future. Your research is therefore available to a much wider audience, including BSF's next target.
Front groups and other PR tactics lose their effectiveness when they are exposed. As people track and share information about disinformation campaigns, it becomes easier to pull them from backroom darkness into the harsh light of public scrutiny. CMD's SourceWatch makes it easy for average citizens to be part of this truth seeking process.
If you want to use SourceWatch, first log in and check out the link to how to help write history. Creating SourceWatch articles is easy, so the best way to learn how is by simply doing it. We've posted a number of "help" and "frequently asked questions" pages, discussing the ins and outs of posting article and outlining style and formatting conventions.
To make it as simple as possible, SourceWatch runs on a "wiki" software platform that minimizes the need for any special computer skills. You will want to learn a handful of wiki markups that allow you to write and edit an entry so it looks sharp in any web browser. The markups help organize your article with headings, bold and italicized words, lists with bullet points, and hyperlinks to both SourceWatch pages and off-site resources.
New pages are created by linking from a pre-existing, topically related page. So in the above example, you would first go to the "Biosolids" page and click "edit this page." Using simple wiki mark-ups, you would create a reference with a link to "Biosolids for a Solid Future," even though that article doesn't yet exist. Clicking on the new link will then open an editor window, which allows you to enter the text for the new page. Creating new entries this way avoids creating "orphan" pages (which have no links pointing to them), helping to maintain a generally high level of connectedness within the SourceWatch.
It is also important to write articles that focus on documented facts so please include thorough citations for the supporting facts in your articles.
All you really need is the desire to collaborate on a project dedicated to supporting increased public scrutiny of public policy, exposing the manipulation of public opinion by government and industry, and hopefully, paving the way to more democracy and justice.