For years, organizations and companies have issued press releases about their so-called “studies” and “reports” that claim this city or that city is the “safest,” “most dangerous,” “cleanest” or “dirtiest” in the state or nation.

The Pilot receives such press releases several times a month and, for the most part, we ignore them, seeing them for what they are: blatant promotion for a company’s services or product.

For example, Brookings was recently named Oregon’s third safest city in a “study” by home security provider Safewise.com. In the press release, Safewise cites its “own research” and an FBI Crime Data report from 2015.

However, we found very little in the way of information in the Safewise report. The site looks clean and professional, but there is no explanation of how the rankings were decided and nothing in the way of facts or figures. The release does, however, include a link to Safewise’s site, where users can get quotes on home security systems in their area.

Aha!

Sadly, there is a growing number of people, including several local government officials, who share the results of these “studies” via email and social media as if the information was real news.

They are not alone.

Many people see, hear or read stories, press releases or posts that start “A new study shows ...” and are quick to share the information with others.

The wanton spreading of unvetted information, especially on social media, has become rampant, but we expect more diligence on the part of our government officials — and the general public.

We a suggestion: Check the source.

That is the mantra of any good journalist, researcher or individual interested in obtaining the truth. If it’s a study, check the sampling size and, more importantly, the funding sources.

Also, if a company with a clear interest in a certain set of outcomes fund or promote a study, approach it with a high degree of skepticism.

It sometimes takes a careful eye to tell the difference between someone trying to inform you and someone trying to sell you something.

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