|I. About ProCon.org (6)||V. Research Methodology (13)|
|II. How to Use ProCon.org (5)||VI. Sources (10)|
|III. About ProCon.org Readers (4)||VII. Getting Involved (11)|
|IV. Topic Selection (2)||VIII. Contacting ProCon.org (4)|
ProCon.org’s creation, funding, affiliations, and policies.
July 12, 2004. Steven C. Markoff, the Chairman of ProCon.org, has been active in trying to find pros and cons of various controversial issues since 1986. He created an organization to pursue this effort, and after going through several iterations, that organization became ProCon.org on July 12, 2004. Read a detailed personal statement from Mr. Markoff about the origins and background of ProCon.org.
ProCon.org was initially funded primarily by its founder, Steve Markoff. Since our formation in July 2004, more of the organization’s revenue has come from third party sources including private companies, foundations, individual donors, and others. As a measure of our transparency, all ProCon.org donors for the last three years are listed on our Donors & Sponsors page. Funding prior to the last three years can be found in our Annual Reports, Audited Financial Statements, and 990 Forms – all of which we have made available online for review. ProCon.org has also raised money by partnering with the March of Dimes Canada via charity golf tournaments.
"Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format."
We believe that most (if not all) people, including the people employed at ProCon.org, have biases on many topics. However, ProCon.org as an organization is neither conservative nor liberal nor otherwise politically biased. We work hard to be nonpartisan and to ensure that an individual’s bias does not appear in or affect our organization’s work.
We have strict policies and procedures to prevent any bias from appearing in the sites. If you perceive bias on any of our sites, let us know and we will immediately address your concerns.
Some people may consider our graphic design decisions, such as pro v. con (instead of con v. pro), red v. green, left column v. right column, and other distinctions, to suggest bias for one side or the other (for example, that a column on the left suggests the political "left"). Our graphic designs are meant to eliminate the perception of bias, and we realize that not everyone will agree. For example, we place the "pros” on the left and the "cons” on the right because we find that more people use the phrase "pro-con” than "con-pro” and text is read left to right on our pages.
Part of the reason ProCon.org exists at all is to bring neutrality and credible research to important social issues. Our stated mission is, "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format." We are committed to fulfilling our mission as best we can.
ProCon.org does not take a position on any of the issues it explores. The world is full of organizations that give their opinions explicitly or reveal their opinions through bias. ProCon.org is different. We provide high quality and unbiased research so that our readers can make up their own minds.
No. ProCon.org is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. Although we have sites about the ACLU and D.A.R.E, ProCon.org is not affiliated with either organization (although our Chairman has been a board member of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California for many years). ProCon.org has also raised money by partnering with the March of Dimes Canada via charity golf tournaments.
The information on the ProCon.org websites has been compiled using the data available to us. We strive for accuracy but cannot be held responsible for any factual errors or mistakenly attributed quotations. We are human and sometimes make mistakes. We make every effort to correct any such errors promptly when they are brought to our attention. Please Contact Us to report any errors on our sites.
Just because we quote someone does not mean we in any way agree with them or support their perspective. ProCon.org's inclusion of links or references to outside sites or organizations is not intended to in any way endorse the views expressed or products/services offered by those third parties. Similarly, we bear no responsibility for the content or views expressed on sites that link to a ProCon.org website.
Information for students, media, and readers about using ProCon.org content.
Each page on ProCon.org has a "Cite” button at the top right. Clicking the "Cite” button will show proper bibliographic citations for that specific page in APA, Chicago, MLA, and Turabian style formats.
See our guide on how to cite ProCon.org content.
Yes. ProCon.org has been referenced in the media hundreds of times. For information on our topics or to schedule an interview, please contact our President Kamy Akhavan at 310-587-1407 (or by email: kamy[at]procon.org).
We at ProCon.org generally encourage people to reprint material from our site (or link to our site) because it helps to advance our mission of promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship. Click here for a link to our "Reprinting Policy" for all reprinted and otherwise used ProCon.org content. We have broken down our policy into two sections, Reprinting Policy under "Fair Use" and Reprinting Policy for Commercial or non-"Fair Use" Requests.
Yes. When someone clicks on a ProCon.org link to a PDF file, third party website, or ProCon.org biography, the page will open (aka "pop up”) in a new Internet browser window.
No. ProCon.org is nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity that presents facts, studies, pro and con statements, and related research on important social issues. We do not provide:
- medical or legal advice
- referrals to or recommendations of marijuana dispensaries, cannabis clubs, physicians, or attorneys
- recommendations or referrals to specific physicians, counselors, organizations, or other experts on end-of-life issues
Who uses ProCon.org -- from media to schools to the general public.
The information presented on our sites is intended for the public, policy makers, the media, scholars, scientists, judges, attorneys, librarians, teachers, and students. For more information about our audience, please visit our webpage "Who Uses ProCon.org?"
The number of ProCon.org website sessions is tracked on our Traffic page where you can see the breakdown by month, year, and website.
Does ProCon.org make students lazy researchers since they have access to so much information in one place?
Perhaps, but the primary focus of ProCon.org is to promote critical thinking and not to develop individual research skills. We conduct research so that our readers can more easily understand diverse perspectives on controversial issues.
Some teachers say that ProCon.org provides too much information and detracts from the development of student research skills. Other teachers say that ProCon.org provides sourced information in a relevant context that helps students to further their research skills by tracking down primary sources and pursuing new lines of inquiry.
- ProCon.org is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. Any information we collect through this website is for our own use in managing and improving our service.
- When readers offer feedback on our sites we will sometimes post their comments online. To preserve confidentiality, only the writer's first name is usually noted, unless they specifically ask us not to include their first name, or authorize us to use their full name. Respondents are generally notified when we add their response to the Reader Comments sections.
- Private information about our users, including names, email addresses, contact information, donation amounts, and other personal data are NOT marketed or sold to any outside party or parties, including the government. Unless we are subpoenaed to do otherwise, our customer's private information shall remain private.
- ProCon.org sometimes has links to other sites. Their privacy policies may differ from ours, and we, therefore, can take no responsibility for them or their actions.
- We collect data about traffic on our sites, including, but not limited, to the number and type of pages viewed. This information is used to improve our sites and some aggregate totals may be posted on our sites.
- ProCon.org uses Google Analytics to track our internet traffic along with a specific enhancement called "Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting." Visitors can opt-out of this enhanced tracking if they wish by visiting www.google.com/settings/ads or by downloading the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on.
- We sometimes collect poll data from readers of ProCon.org, including, but not limited, topic preferences, demographics, political affiliation, feedback on the website, etc. This information is used to improve our sites and some aggregate totals may be posted on our sites.
- We try to take appropriate security measures to protect against unauthorized access to or unauthorized alteration, disclosure or destruction of data. These include internal reviews of our data collection, storage and processing practices and security measures, as well as physical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to systems where we store personal data.
- ProCon.org uses SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption for improved security when visitors transmit payment information for online donations.
- We restrict access to personal information to ProCon.org employees and advisors who need to know that information in order to operate, develop or improve our services.
How ProCon.org selects the topics readers are most interested in.
We continually ask our readers for new topic suggestions. Please send us your questions, ideas, and comments. Strong reader demand has led to the development of our standardized testing, euthanasia, immigration, death penalty, social networking, cell phones, drinking age, abortion, 2008 election, and churches and taxes websites.
Ideas are also generated internally based on topics that are controversial and important to many Americans. We prefer topics with strong emotions on both sides that lend themselves to our nonpartisan presentation of facts and arguments so that people can better understand these issues and formulate their own perspectives. We also cover some issues, such as felon voting and milk, that are important to a smaller audience and often overlooked by mainstream media.
Our internal checklist provides that new ProCon.org issue websites are:
- Important to many Americans
- Useful to promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship
- Stand-alone topics (not part of larger issues)
- Complementary to ProCon.org’s diverse subject offering
Production of a new issue website at ProCon.org cannot begin or be announced as a future topic until the Chairman and the Managing Editor of ProCon.org sign off on the core question (for example, "Should marijuana be a medical option?” or "Is the ACLU good for America?”).
It is understood and authorized that limited research may be necessary to create an appropriate core question.
When signed off for the final posting to the web, the core question can only be changed with the Chairman and Managing Editor’s authorization.
Yes. Although ProCon.org is a US-based organization that tends to focus on issues important to Americans, much of our research has international relevance. For example, two of our websites, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq, are clearly international. Dozens of our questions and resources have an international focus (euthanasia laws in Holland and Belgium, doping in the Olympics, and abortion, prostitution, drinking age, and felon voting laws around the world, among others). In addition, many of our other topics are not restricted by geography (cell phone safety, healthfulness of milk, global climate change, the origins of sexual orientation, etc.).
How ProCon.org’s issue websites are created
Not normally. Usually one person leads the research process on an issue website, and it is common for several researchers to contribute by adding biographies, questions, pro and con responses, resources, etc. The researcher in charge of the website is acknowledged on the About Us page, and any researcher who contributed over 250 hours or 33% of an issue website (whichever is less) is acknowledged as a contributing researcher.
Micro Sites Standard Sites 1. Number of hours to build one site <400 >1,500 2. Overview Section Yes Yes 3. Multiple Questions No, just the core question Yes, no limit 4. Top pro, con, and not clearly pro and con arguments in response to core question? Yes. Use our words to make up the top pros and cons (not necessarily 10) on our homepage Yes. Use the best quotes in response to core questions as top pros and cons (not necessarily 10) 5. Did You Know? Yes, no more than five Yes, no limit 6. Historical Timeline? Yes, but as part of the background and without biographies Yes, with biographies 7. Include subissues? No Yes, no limit 8. Bios and Theoretical Expertise? Yes Yes, no limit 9. Include images / videos? Yes, no more than 10 Typically yes, no limit 10. Include special projects? Yes Yes, no limit 11. Include a readers' comments section? Yes Yes 12. Include a link to the email sign up page? Yes Yes 13. Exception authorization Managing Editor & Chairman Managing Editor & Chairman MICRO sites may expand into standard sites in the future.
ProCon.org presents many sides of an issue - not just two. For instance, on the issue of medical marijuana, we ask one core question--"Should marijuana be a medical option?"--which has a pro response or a con response. However, we also ask over 75 other questions about medical marijuana to explore the nuance and diversity of opinions on the issue.
Each ProCon.org standard issue website contains dozens and sometimes hundreds of questions and resources about the issue. The end result is far more than a two-dimensional examination of a topic. That said, our mini and micro sites present pros and cons surrounding one core question (and no additional questions) along with some related information on the issue being discussed. Whether our mini and micro sites are therefore two-dimensional is up to the reader to determine.
Our questions are developed by researching the topics, contacting related experts and organizations, and receiving feedback and ideas from readers. The questions are intended to thoroughly explore the core question and related issues.
We encourage readers to send us more or better questions, responses, and information that are more specific, more direct, and/or have better sources than those posted.
Questions, including core questions, are usually worded deliberately so that a Pro response is generally considered to be Pro the topic and a Con response is generally considered to be Con the topic.
If that doesn't quite work, then we may do what we've done once in the past and flip a coin.
We seek a diversity of responses to our questions. For example, if we receive two similar responses from two equally strong sources (for example, both 3-stars), then we will generally give the posting to the respondent who has fewer other responses posted on our sites.
We normally post up to five Pro and five Con comments per question. All comments are intended to be relevant, responsive, clear, concise, and properly sourced. They are not represented as science, but rather as a compilation of the best Pro, Con, or General Reference responses we can find on each site's core question and related issues
We have less interest in political or emotional statements than factual ones or well-formed opinions, but we sometimes post them if we feel they are particularly interesting, relevant, or thought provoking.
Although many readers want the most recent quotes and resources, we sometimes add or keep older statements for historical perspective, variety, relevance of source to debate, strength of argument, and other reasons.
Responses should be direct and on point, compelling and convincing, clear, short (usually no more than 200 words), in order of their quality (best arguments first), and never taken out of context.
Weak, sloppy, superficial, "straw man” arguments, and arguments that can be easily overwhelmed by common sense counter arguments are avoided.
Ideally, the Pro and Con responses will match by strength of argument, strength and relevance of sources, argument types (academic, political, religious, etc.), and dates (with the most current or most historically significant first).
The Pro and Con responses will ideally also match by star count (theoretical expertise rankings), length of argument, number of arguments, and length of columns. For General Reference (GR) responses, we try to avoid biased sources. If neutral sources cannot be found, we include a second source with an opposing bias. If the researcher is unable to present at least one Pro and Con argument for the question, the following are considered: eliminating the question until at least one Pro and one Con can be found; rephrasing the question to allow an opposing viewpoint; rephrasing the question to make the pro-con argument a general reference; using the good argument in a different section; or providing an [Editor’s note:] in the empty opposing section to acknowledge and explain the lack of a counter argument (this option should be rarely used).
No. We always try to include the best arguments on both sides of all debates, and we also always work to make the pro-con columns visually balanced. Sometimes one side, for whatever reason, simply takes less space to make their case. Therefore, equality in column length is not always achievable. Any visual imbalance in a pro v. con column is unintentional and does not suggest any bias for one side or the other. We hope that our readers focus more on the quality of the arguments than their length.
Our sources include websites, magazines, newspapers, libraries, transcripts, videos, interviews, emails, legislation, direct correspondence, and more.
Our researchers use advanced internet search strategies, scour studies, articles, etc., solicit responses from experts via email and phone, and are resourceful in general when it comes to finding the best, most clear, most well sourced, most compelling information from diverse sources. Most research is done from our office in Santa Monica although we sometimes go offsite to visit the library or attend a conference.
How does ProCon.org determine whether a source is Pro, Con, NC (not clearly pro or con), or Now on an issue?
We base our Pro, Con, Not Clearly Pro or Con (NC), or Now designation on what the sourced person or organization has said, written, done, or otherwise verifiably expressed about an issue.
Sometimes a person or organization has made a prior Pro, Con, or NC statement or action about their position on an issue (including voting on legislation, filing documents in court, or making official statements) that reflects a contrary position from their current position on that issue. In such cases, we show the differing statements so readers can see how that position has or seems to have changed. We normally add "Now" in front of the most current position, as in "Now Con" or "Now Pro" and add an Editor's Note to describe the position change and the source and date of that change.
For example, presidential candidate Barack Obama made a "Con" gay marriage statement on Aug. 18, 2008 during a televised debate with John McCain at Saddleback College. He said: "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. You know, God's in the mix." On May 9, 2012 President Barack Obama made a "Pro" statement on the issue of gay marriage during an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC's Good Morning America. He said: "…at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married." We designated Barack Obama as "Now Pro" on the issue of gay marriage and added a sourced Editor's Note including his prior "Con" statement.
"Exact Quotes” are shown within double quotation marks. Omissions are shown with ellipses (...); words added to quotes, usually for context, are shown with square brackets [words].
We choose facts for the "Did You Know?” section based on the following criteria:
- We want to educate and entertain ProCon.org visitors. Think "fun facts.”
- The feel of the section should be friendly and inviting.
- Facts should be hard-hitting and compelling.
- Present only facts. No statements should be ambiguous or subject to rational argument.
- Facts should be straightforward and brief.
- Facts should contain a link to more information on that particular subject on ProCon.org.
Yes and no. Sites that are not labeled "archived" are sometimes updated several times per week and other times fewer than once or twice every few months.
The frequency of updates varies based on:
--whether or not something new and materially significant happened on a topic (for example, if a new state legalizes medical marijuana we would update our medical marijuana website right away, when the $25 million INTERPHONE study on cell phones came out we updated Cell Phones ProCon.org within 24 hours, and if a new state were to ban the death penalty we would update the Death Penalty ProCon.org website soon afterwards),
--how important timeliness is to the topic itself (for example, our website about "under God” in the pledge contains many historic quotes from Founding Fathers, and former presidents, and the major court cases involving this issue are already over; timeliness is less relevant to this topic than many of our other topics), (and our research workload).
--Sites labeled "archived” are normally not updated, although we may choose to update them when something materially significant occurs on the topic.
At the top right of nearly every page (including this one) is information about when that page was last updated. Those references look like this: "Last updated on: 10/14/2013 1:45:10 PM PST."
On our issue site homepages, the last updated information appears on the very bottom of the page and looks like this: "Last updated on 2/14/2011 1:32 PM PST."
We reserve editorial discretion in determining what materials are put on and taken off our sites. All policies are subject to change and exceptions can be approved by ProCon.org's Managing Editor or Chairman. Some decisions are presented to ProCon.org's Board of Directors.
All ProCon.org sites remain hidden from public view until the Managing Editor considers it at least 80% complete. At 80% complete: the outline, questions, resources, etc. should have been solidified and approved in writing by the researcher and Managing Editor; the user experience should be "good enough,” so that the user’s first impression is always positive; all links on the posted site must point to pages containing content. At 80% complete, we may start advertising the site and submitting it to search engines for indexing.
The week before a launch we contact all site sources to verify biographies, solicit feedback, and encourage publicity; review and optimize META tags and TITLE tags for the homepage and all resources/projects; write a press release to be released within three days of the website launch; submit site for review and final approval by the Chairman three days prior to launch; and perform all of the technical duties like adding a place on the homepage for the new topic, setting up tracking software, and setting up the site’s email account.
The day before the launch we submit the website to Google and Yahoo! search engines; add a "NEW” icon next to the new topic on the homepage; announce the new site on all ProCon.org sites in the "News & Notices” section; remove the new site from the "Websites in Development” section; and add the new site to the "Traffic” page.
After the site is launched we request links to the site from related organizations; check the news daily for articles on the topic, send press releases to the authors of the articles, and add the reporters’ names to a master list of media contacts; and add links to the new website to Wikipedia and other topic-specific directories.
We archive a website when: the site is considered "good enough" by the Chairman and Managing Editor; the core question of the issue site has been resolved or is otherwise irrelevant; the site is considered complete (95% by policy); the site’s average quality is in the "A" range (90% "A"s or higher); the site has passed the point of diminishing returns and updates to the site have low value; and archiving the site has been authorized in writing by the Managing Editor and Chairman.
How ProCon.org uses and cites sources, and information for people/organizations ProCon.org has cited.
Yes. We generally provide the source's name and title and education along with the title of the article, and name and date of publication where that source's quotation appeared. You'll see that information in the introductory statement that precedes every pro or con or not clearly pro or con statement.
For further disclosure, we also create a biography of each source where we show the source's title, education, work experience, affiliations, contact information, position statement on the site's core question, and more. Our micro websites do not have biographies (as of Dec. 28, 2009) although we do provide a list of sources used.
Responses are sourced to the author(s) of the article, study, report, etc. –meaning ProCon.org creates a biography for the author—except in the following two cases:
ProCon.org cites the lead author of studies in peer reviewed journals. Lead authors are normally explicitly identified in a study. When they are not explicitly identified, lead authors are generally listed first and non-alphabetically among others who appear in alphabetical order.
- No author provided—then reference the organization responsible.
- Example: Newsweek article without an author would be sourced as Newsweek.
- Example: Iraq Study Group report without an author would be sourced as Iraq Study Group.
- Author is communicating on behalf on an organization for which he/she is authorized to speak and not on behalf of him/herself—then reference the organization on whose behalf the author is communicating.
- Example: Tim Roberts writes an article stating that the Gay and Lesbian Association of Evangelicals (GLAE)—an organization for whom he is the spokesperson—thinks gay marriage should be legal. The source is GLAE.
Intro statement would read: "The Gay and Lesbian Association of Evangelicals (GLAE), in a statement from its spokesperson Tim Roberts, …”
- Example: Susan Haymaker, a disgruntled employee at Boeing, says Boeing is a bad company to work for. The source is Susan Haymaker.
- Linda McGee, a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says that she supports the US embargo on Cuba. The source is Linda McGee.
- Copyright issues: ProCon.org duplicates select content from third party sources without first acquiring copyright permission because we believe that the Fair Use doctrine permits our use of excerpted materials for non-commercial educational purposes. Reprinting entire articles or studies may push the boundary of what is allowable under copyright laws, even with the Fair Use doctrine, and may put ProCon.org at risk.
- Subscription-based content: Much of the information we acquire is from subscription-based content that cannot be linked to from our sites. Instead of seeing the article referenced, readers would see solicitations for subscription.
- Wanting to avoid clutter: Part of the purpose of ProCon.org is to save our readers time by finding the best research and compiling it in one place. By linking to the content referenced on the site, we would be sending our readers all over the Internet—something we want them to avoid by using ProCon.org as a resource.
- Avoiding broken links: Increasing the number of links to third party sites means we also increase the likelihood of having broken links on the ProCon.org websites. We do not have the resources to monitor and repair the thousands of new links that offsite links would require.
ProCon.org normally adds full-text PDF copies of studies referenced on the website unless the study’s publisher explicitly bars reprinting without authorization (and we have no such authorization), requires a fee-based licensing agreement (and we have no such agreement), or charges for public access to their copyrighted study.
The quotes listed in our biographies are responses to the core question posted on each topic's homepage. We contacted the individuals and organizations' principals (or spokespersons) or found a quote in a mainstream publication that answers the question. We show the dates of the quotes so the reader can put them in a historical context.
The website researcher and Managing Editor may accurately apply individual and organization’s statements to either the Pro side or the Con side, despite the author's personal opinion.
When someone has changed his/her views on a topic, we will often retain the quote used on the website and mention the position change [in a bracketed Editor’s Note] along with the date and source reflecting the change. In some cases, we will post a Pro and a Con statement reflecting both the current and prior positions if they are both deemed especially relevant to the question being asked.
When we receive responses to our questions, we generally send an email clarifying the questions to which we understood they responded. We may ask clarifying follow-up questions in an effort to keep the comments on point and clear.
For example, if a respondent claims "studies" prove a certain point we will generally ask that source to clarify which studies he/she was referring to.
We may also ask respondents pointed and leading questions, or play "devil's advocate" in an effort to clarify or simplify the responses, Pro or Con.
Although many people and organizations are occasionally careless or intentionally misleading with facts, data, and communications, we at ProCon.org believe that government and their officials should always disseminate accurate and truthful information (with the arguable exception of real national security needs).
The site's Editor will therefore comment when we believe that information put out by government officials or organizations is false, misleading, or erroneous.
We will also comment in those few cases when the contributor believes that the information he/she is contributing should appear to others as having the opposite view as a plain reading of the material would seem to suggest.
We don't comment on information that may be slanted, biased, or not clearly valid.
Comments by the site's Editor should be noted in red in this format:
[Editor's Note: The government report is based on the testimony of a physician whose license to practice medicine was revoked within six months of the report's release. 12/30/10]
Occasionally. We have limited resources and usually update biographies for material changes only.
For example, we may update biographies to reference a major new title for a major public figure (for example, Senator Obama becoming President Obama), to confirm old position statements (for example, to see if the American Medical Association’s Not Clearly Pro or Con statement on medical marijuana remains current in 2013), to fix an error, or for other reasons.
For transparency, we provide the "last updated” information on each biography.
Although ProCon.org will not normally remove publicly available and accurate information, including biographies, from its websites, we will remove or modify information that we have determined is incorrect or misleading.
ProCon.org biographies should contain relevant information about the source including his or her contact information. Sometimes an individual, for whatever reason, does not want certain biographical information published on our website.
Contact information normally includes phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, and websites. It may sometimes include street addresses, city, state, and country. Contact information for our sources can be relevant to our website readers; however, the data are not critical to providing our readers with the biographical context for our sources. Therefore, if the source individual or organization does not want all or part of their contact information to be displayed in their biography, regardless of the reason, then we will normally remove the objected-to contact information and type "Privacy requested” in the appropriate field.
Photographs are sometimes included in individual biographies whenever we are able to find a suitable image. Suitability is generally based on size, clarity, resolution, whether there are additional people or things in the image, permissions restrictions, etc.
Images are usually not critical to providing our readers with the biographical context of our sources. While some people are pleased when we add their photograph, other individuals may feel that being visually recognized is undesirable. Therefore, whenever a non-public figure requests in writing to have his/her photo removed, we will usually comply. Additionally, we may ask if they have a photograph they would not mind if we post.
We will normally not remove the photographs of public figures whose likenesses are recognized by the average reader (i.e. Bill Clinton, Nancy Reagan, or O. J. Simpson).
The process for removing contact information or photographs from biographies involves:
- Getting the removal request in writing (email or fax is fine) and asking for their reason(s) to be included in the request
- Discussing the matter with the Managing Editor. Generally the request will be approved. In some cases the Managing Editor may ask for additional information from the requestor. If there is any question on the Managing Editor’s mind, he/she will discuss the issue with the Chairman.
- Once the revision has been approved by the Managing Editor and uploaded, the requestor will be sent an email with a link to the updated biography to show that the request has been obliged.
If a source believes that ProCon.org has presented his/her quoted statement out of context or in an otherwise misleading manner, then what is that person’s recourse?
He or she should let us know their position and request by email. We may leave the quote as is, add an Editor’s Note (in red) to the biography explaining that the quoted person believes we improperly quoted him/her and why, and/or include a PDF of the entire article/statement so that our readers can make up their own minds about the statement(s) we have quoted.
Sometimes a ProCon.org site source asks to have their public comment or quotation altered or erased altogether because they feel embarrassed by their past statements or they may feel that we have misrepresented their assertions or they may have simply changed their opinion over time.
We believe that a person’s past published statements are irrevocably a part of history, and consequently, in its commitment to historical accuracy, ProCon.org’s policy is to keep all source statements, when accurately recorded by ProCon.org, as part of the historical record even if that individual has substantially different views or statements later.
Therefore, ProCon.org will not delete source statements from our sites unless we have incorrectly quoted the person or entity, presented their statements in a misleading manner, found a more credible source stating the same position (so we would normally drop the one in question), or other compelling reasons.
If the source simply wants to update their position to our core question, then we would normally post their updated statement in their Bio. If the new statement contradicts or is substantially different from the prior statement, then both statements may or may not appear (along with the date and source for each new statement). This decision should be made by the Managing Editor on a case-by-case basis. Only the Managing Editor and President can approve the posted changes when asked to do so by the quoted source.
Evaluating the credibility of one person's statements is difficult if not impossible, especially without knowing, for example, each person's background, training, affiliations, education, or experience.
We have therefore built theoretical expertise rankings for each ProCon.org website to help differentiate the theoretical expertise of the various sources on our sites. We have customized the star categories to each of our sites' specific content because of their different subject matter.
The Medical Marijuana site lists physicians as 4-star "KEY EXPERTS," while other sites may not even have the "Key Expert" category.
Ambassadors or diplomats to the Middle East might be 3-star "Experts" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but probably not in the Medical Marijuana issue.
Therefore, to better understand our theoretical expertise ranking of the contributors to each site, visit that site's Theoretical Expertise Rankings page.
The Theoretical Expertise Rankings system is designed as a simple way to gauge the theoretical credibility of the responses received, although we note that sometimes, for example, a 1-star source may be better informed or more credible than a 5-star source.
Arguably, the expertise rankings have been the most difficult part of ProCon.org's presentation, in part because we have tried to make it an easy to use and useful tool for subjective and complicated questions.
Our theoretical expertise rankings are based upon the following premises:
Some have questioned, for instance, why we have chosen to give government reports our highest rating of five stars.
- The courts and many people equate a level of education and knowledge with a person's theoretical expertise.
- Although ProCon.org doesn't have the resources to make complex evaluations of the expertise of each contributor to our website and such an evaluation would still contain a fair amount of subjectivity, we believe our theoretical ranking is more desirable than no ranking at all, and that it should be accurate at least 80% of the time.
Our thinking is that government facts and statistics are generally reliable. However, what is less reliable, hence our lower rating, is when government personnel attempt to quote from such facts out of context, or worse, when they misuse those facts on purpose or by accident.
For example, we generally would give our highest rating, five stars, to a government report saying that there have been 52,850 killed in auto accidents in a given time period, but we would consider it less credible for a government employee to say in a speech, "Fifty-thousand people died last year in auto accidents.” The government employee would probably receive one, three, or possible four stars, depending on the person's education and position.
We usually don't rank organizations anything other than 1-star because they are often dynamic and composed of a myriad of influences, making a ranking difficult and partially subjective.
When we do rank organizations higher -- such as the New York Times (which we rate as 2-star) -- and, when that organization prints an editorial, a quote from that editorial would carry a 2-star rating. However, if that same organization quotes an individual who we believe should be rated a 1, 3, or 4 star that quote would carry a 1, 3, or 4 star rating.
Contributors who request that their name be withheld from their responses will be posted as anonymous. We discourage anonymous submissions because they cannot be rated on our Theoretical Expertise Rankings page.
How to can help ProCon.org and how ProCon.org can help promote critical thinking.
Get involved! You can help us in 20 different ways.
- Share your ideas for new site topics
- Send us your feedback and opinions. To view what others have said about us, please see our Readers' comments page
- Link to ProCon.org from relevant areas of Wikipedia and other user-generated content sites. Please observe their rules carefully.
- Make ProCon.org my homepage
- Follow Us on Twitter
- Join Us on Facebook
- Subscribe to our free RSS feed where you can receive automatic updates of the new content posted on ProCon.org - For questions about RSS, please see our RSS Help Page
- Link to ProCon.org from your website or your blog. For ProCon.org banner links and instructions please see our Link to Us page
- Become a research volunteer or intern at ProCon.org. Work from home and contribute your time to a great cause
- Sign up to receive our free email updates
- Save ProCon.org as one of your favorite websites using My Favorites, Google Bookmarks, Delicious, or any other bookmark service
- Add a comment to an online discussion, message board, listserve, etc. that references ProCon.org material
- Tell a teacher aboutProCon.org and our ProCon.org for Teachers Page
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and quote data from ProCon.org
- Cite ProCon.org content in your school research project
- Write to your local school board or state superintendent of education and let them know you think ProCon.org is a valuable educational resource
- Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about ProCon.org using our Share and Email functions located at the top right corner of every page
- Write to your elected political representative and tell them how you feel about a particular issue and reference ProCon.org data in your correspondence to make your arguments
- List an item on eBay Giving Works and donate 10% to 100% of your item's final sale price to ProCon.org
- Please donate $10, $50, $100 or more today to help keep critical thinking alive and to keep ProCon.org free of charge.
ProCon.org will post any position openings on our "Job Openings” page.
If you would like to volunteer for ProCon.org, please see our "ProCon.org Interns and Volunteers” page.
Making a donation is easy. You can make a donation online using Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Donations can be made in any amount from $10 to $50 to $1,000 to a larger denomination of your choice.
You can also donate by check payable to ProCon.org (mailing address is 233 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90401). In addition, you can donate by PayPal, stock transfer, wire transfer, bequests, Facebook Causes, etc. Our Chairman would be more than happy to discuss those possibilities with you.
No. We do not allow direct public access to post or edit the information on our sites because crowd-sourced "wiki" websites ("wiki" is defined by Webster's dictionary as "a Web site that allows visitors to make changes, contributions, or corrections.") often lack the stringent quality that our organization requires to ensure accuracy, integrity, proper sourcing, and utility for our readers.
Yes. When someone writes to suggest that we review particular studies or articles, we normally ask for the exact comments they think are suitable for specific questions so we can more efficiently find and review them.
Visit the Comments section on each ProCon.org issue to submit a comment, and read, vote on, and reply to already published comments. Our interactive readers’ comments areas were added to our sites on Apr. 27, 2011, and comments received prior to that date are archived here. The rules for submitting comments to ProCon.org are:
- Comments move up or down based on the number of thumbs up or thumbs down votes they receive.
- You can vote once on each comment or reply.
- Comments must directly answer the question and contribute meaningfully to the discussion.
- Comments are normally added unless they contain profanity, spam, unreadable text, plagiarism, or otherwise abuse the comment system in which case they will not be added. If your comment is approved for posting, you will receive an email with a direct link to your published comment.
- Some comments may be edited for spelling, grammar, clarity, or brevity.
- Comments are limited to 1,250 characters (about 200 words) in length.
- When submitting comments, you can also sign up for our free email updates (you’ll get 1-3 per month and can unsubscribe anytime). And you can request to have us automatically email you whenever someone writes a reply to your comment.
- You can change your vote. If you voted "thumbs down” once and then change your mind to "thumbs up,” the comment will reflect your "thumbs up” vote and remove your "thumbs down” vote.
- Comments with the same number of "thumbs up” votes are arranged in date order with the newest comments on top.
- Comments approved for publishing are generally posted within 1-2 business days of receipt. You can also provide general feedback, share some ideas, tell us how to improve, etc. by using the "Contact Us” form in the top right of all ProCon.org pages. We'd love to hear from you.
No. ProCon.org does not accept submissions for publication of third party articles or studies.
However, ProCon.org does often reference, cite, and excerpt portions of third party research. For such consideration, please email email@example.com and provide:
- Link to or PDF of article/study, and
- Which specific passage(s) you believe we should consider excerpting or referencing, and
- Where exactly on ProCon.org you believe it should appear, and
Yes. If your lesson plans or educational resources reference ProCon.org content, then please let us know and we may add them to our website in "Lesson Planning with ProCon.org" or "How Schools Are Using ProCon.org" in order to give other teachers or librarians ideas for their own plans.
To let us know, send a link to where ProCon.org is referenced, send the lesson or resource itself as an email attachment, or provide a testimonial statement about your use of ProCon.org. Remember to include the name and location of your school.
ProCon.org sponsored a video contest to get students and schools involved in promoting critical thinking. You can see the winners of our 2012 contest here.
No. We do not take positions or offer critiques of third party information sources.
Yes. Links to ProCon.org are greatly appreciated. We only ask that ProCon.org be represented as an unbiased site and that the content not be misrepresented. Please keep in mind that we do not offer reciprocal links.
No. ProCon.org does not participate in any reciprocal link exchanges.
We do provide links in the Contact Information field of the biographies for organizations and individuals that are quoted on the website.
If you send us a great statement that we use on the website, then we will create your biography and provide a link to you in it.
Perhaps, depending on the topic you choose, but such funding would not cause us to build a website on a topic that we did not believe was timely and appropriate.
For example, if we are considering five topics acceptable to ProCon.org for development and we have focused on topic #1, but a donor offers us $75,000 - $100,000 -- the approximate cost to develop a standard ProCon.org website from scratch -- or more to develop topic #5 ahead of topic #1, we would then consider moving topic #5 to the top of our development list. A mini or micro website would cost us substantially less to develop and we may therefore prioritize the creation of a mini or micro website for a smaller donation.
If someone brings us a funder for a site we approve, we would consider paying a "finder's fee.”
Yes and no. We accept sponsorships but not ads.
A sponsorship might read "Brand X Soft Drink supports the critical thinking efforts of ProCon.org. Brand X is a maker of 12 different flavors of drinks. Click here for more information." An advertisement might read "Buy Brand X Soft Drink, offering12 different flavors for $1.99 each at your local Shop & Save market."
Please review our document "Why Should I Sponsor ProCon.org?" to learn more about sponsorship opportunities. Serious inquiries only. Information about our pageviews, sessions, hits, and uniques is available on our Traffic page.
Also, a person or organization who provides goods or services to ProCon.org (that we want and authorize) at no charge is also considered a Sponsor.
All sponsors are recognized on our Donors & Sponsors page.
Generally, no. However, we will sometimes allow staff and others (excluding Board members) to earn a referral commission of up to 10% of the money they raise on their own time for specific and approved projects (such as signing up players for our Dec. 2, 2013 charity golf tournament) from individuals and organizations with whom ProCon.org has no contact and no stated intentions to contact. We believe it is sometimes less expensive and less risky to pay commissions based on certain fundraising success than to accrue fixed costs through hiring personnel, third party services, or consultants for fundraising.
Ways to contact ProCon.org.
Contact ProCon.org by email at info [at] procon.org or by phone at 310-451-9596.
Our mailing address is:
233 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA 90401
You can use our online contact form to get in touch with us.
ProCon.org can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr.
Yes, ProCon.org normally responds to emails within one business day. ProCon.org does not send a response if the email is from a bogus email address; lewd, offensive, or otherwise clearly demonstrates an abuse of our Contact Us pages; uses unidentifiable characters or language; the email is one of repeated and unrelated customer replies to our replies; or the email is threatening or litigious.
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