Everyone is talking about “fake news” and the word itself was Collins’ Dictionary word of the year for 2017. Why should you care about whether your news is fake or real? Fake news can actually harm you — physically, mentally, or financially. For example, purveyors of false medical advice are rampant online and their bad information may lead you to make harmful decisions. Similarly, real news can benefit you. If you are planning to vote or invest in the stock market, you need accurate information to act. Finally, you don’t want to look foolish in front of friends, family, or professors by presenting arguments built on bad information. You need the facts, just the facts!
Being able to spot fake news is a learned skill with tools to help you sort truth from fiction.
Is the author specialized in the field about which they are writing? Does the author have an advanced degree in the subject or a closely-related field? What else has this author written? Can you find additional author information on Google?
Look for bias.
What point of view does the author present? Can you detect any obvious bias? Is the piece arguing a position, trying to persuade, or appealing to emotion? Is the news outlet affiliated with a particular group or ideology?
Check the sources.
Is the research documented? Are there links to supporting sources? Are other news outlets reporting on the issue? Is the article a satire or parody that resembles actual news?
Check the dates.
Is this an old story that re-surfaced? Information can have an expiration date so look for the most current information you can find.
Consider if your own beliefs affect your judgment. A critical way of thinking about the news says “I want to believe it, but it may be wrong” or “My own bias makes me believe some things are true that are not” or “It may not support my beliefs but it makes me think and is worth considering.”
Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether the information is true or false. Reputable fact-checking websites exist to help you with this process: Accuracy in Media, All Sides, FactCheck.org, and Politifact. Do your best to seek good information, get the whole story, and make well-informed decisions.Looking for sources of trustworthy news? The Townsend Memorial Library can help! We invite you to view our website to browse our research databases and digital collections of articles, journals, and research.