In the second Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” without giving too much away, the youngest Weasley child, Ginny, finds an enchanted diary, and it causes quite a lot of trouble for her and Harry.

At the end of the book, her father, Arthur Weasley, asks her, “Ginny! Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain?”

And this also applies to news media. If you want good, accurate news, follow news media that cites its sources and best of all, relies on primary sources. A news article talking about the coronavirus better have straight facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a hospital or the local health district.

When we write an article here at The Paris News, we mainly talk to primary sources. We talk to city managers, accountants, police chiefs, fire chiefs, Texas Department of Transportation workers, hospital officials, state representatives, etc. We talk to people who have direct knowledge about the issue we are discussing, people who are often in charge of or started what issue or event we are covering. We do not talk to someone’s second cousin’s uncle’s college roommate about it.

I remember once a few years back on Facebook my uncle posted a completely absurd infographic about tilapia being a mutant fake fish with no bones or skin. It had no sources to it, just this infographic that anyone could have created in Photoshop or even Microsoft Word with all kinds of dubious “facts” on it, like “you can’t find tilapia in the wild,” and “eating tilapia is worse than eating bacon or a hamburger.”

Less than two minutes on Google pulled up the Britannica.com — yes, the Encyclopedia Britannica’s site — article on tilapia, noting that “the use of tilapias in warm-water aquaculture systems dates back to the early Egyptian civilization. They have since been introduced into freshwater habitats in many warm parts of the world.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sea Grant program notes it is naturally found in Africa and the Middle East. It’s been fished in the Sea of Galilee for thousands of years as well and is often called St. Peter’s Fish, in reference to Matthew 17:24-27, according to the BBC. And, as someone who has seen fresh tilapia in the market, yes, it does have bones and skin. I have no idea where the worse than bacon or a hamburger thing came from, so I don’t know exactly what context to counter that weird claim. Aquaponics? Nutrients? Who knows?

A few minutes after sharing this information with my uncle, he deleted the post, but not before several other people had shared and commented on it, spreading false information even further.

Again, don’t trust a news item or infographic if it doesn’t show you where it’s “brain” is, in other words, where it gets its facts.

Kim Cox is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6965 or at kim.cox@theparisnews.com.

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