Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Fake News & Evaluating Media Sources: Be a Curious, Reflective,
Active News User

How to Be Media Literate: Be curious. Be reflective. Actively investigate your news sources.

If you have an immediate emotional reaction to a news article or source: pause, reflect, investigate. Exciting an emotional reaction is a primary goal of fake news producers. Do not be part of a viral fake news spiral.

Independently verify the source (by performing a separate search) and independently verify the information (through more mainstream news sources or fact-checking sites).

Select news sources known for high-quality, investigative reporting. Search these sources directly. Don't settle for web search results or social media news feeds. Social media algorithms are designed to present the news that reinforces your current views, not a balanced view.

Data and Statistical Literacy

Becoming an astute user of news content in the media means learning to understand the proper use of data and statistics in the news. Watch this video:

 

 


Then read this brief article, written for journalists, to increase your general media literacy. Learn to spot the misuse of numbers! "Become Data Literate in 3 Simple Steps"

Credits: TEDNYC talk recommended by Amelia Kallaher. Article from Understanding Data, part of The Data Journalism Handbook, Version 1.0 beta online.

Four Reliable News Fact-Checking Sites

FactCheck.org

A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Monitors the factual accuracy of political speeches, debates, news stories and other communications.

PolitiFact

A project of the Tampa Bay Times, Politifact is an independent, nonpartisan fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak about American politics.

Snopes.com fact check

An evidence-based source for fact checking urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. 

 

Understanding Factual Reporting vs News Analysis

Background: "Evaluating news sources is one of the more contentious issues out there. People have their favorite news sources and don’t like to be told that their news source is untrustworthy.

For fact-checking, it’s helpful to draw a distinction between two activities:

  • News Gathering, where news organizations do investigative work, calling sources, researching public documents, checking and publishing facts, e.g. the getting the facts of Bernie Sanders involvement in the passage of several bills.
  • News Analysis, which takes those facts and strings them into a larger narrative, such as 'Senator Sanders an effective legislator behind the scenes" or 'Senator Sanders largely ineffective Senator behind the scenes.'

Most newspaper articles are not lists of facts, which means that outfits like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times do both news gathering and news analysis in stories. What has been lost in the dismissal of the New York Times as liberal and the Wall Street Journal as conservative is that these are primarily biases of the news analysis portion of what they do. To the extent the bias exists, it’s in what they choose to cover, to whom they choose to talk, and what they imply in the way they arrange those facts they collect. The news gathering piece is affected by this, but in many ways largely separate, and the reputation for fact checking is largely separate as well." [italics added]

Quoted from Michael A. Caulfield's Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers. 26: Evaluating News Sources.