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Importance of Evaluating News Sources
The amount of misinformation on the internet is overwhelming. As consumers of information, it is crucial for users to be critical of all information that is found online. Utilize the sources below to evaluate news sources, as well as other web content, when searching for information. You will also find that there are several websites that focus on political information and will do the fact checking for you.
Tips for Spotting a Fake News Site
Professor Melissa Zimdars' Tips for analyzing news sources:
Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources
Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.
It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
Fact Checking Websites
PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Times. The state sites and PunditFact follow the same principles as the national site.
This highly regarded rumor analyzing site has been researching rumors since 1995.
PolitiFact staffers research statements and rate their accuracy on the Truth-O-Meter, from True to False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get the lowest rating, Pants on Fire.
Open Secrets is a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, which is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. Open Secrets are by far the best source for discovering how much and where candidates get their money. They also track lobbying groups and whom they are funding.
A national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses the tools of civic tech, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all. Sunlight primarily focuses on money’s role in politics.
Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.
More Advice on How to Spot a Fake News Source
Evaluating Online Sources
Currency: the timeliness of the information
- When was the information published or posted?
- Has the information been revised or updated?
- Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
- Are the links functional?
Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
- Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
- Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
- Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Authority: the source of the information
- Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
- Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
- What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
- What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
- Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
- Does the URL reveal anything about the author or sources
- examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)
Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and
- Where does the information come from?
- Is the information supported by evidence?
- Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
- Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
- Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
- Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
Purpose: the reason the information exists
- What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
- Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
- Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
- Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
- Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?