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Evaluate Your Sources

Evaluating your sources and spotting fake sites, fake news and media bias.

What is Fake News, Disinformation & Misinformation?

Fake news is what it sounds like, stories that are published that are not based on facts. The aim of most fake news stories is to make money. Fake news stories have exciting titles that lure people to click on a link--which makes money. In print, sensational headlines sell tabloids. 

The terms misinformation and disinformation can also be used instead of fake news. Misinformation is false or incorrect information. Disinformation is false or incorrect information that is deliberately spread with a goal in mind, such as propaganda.  

How to Spot It

These are things to look at that can help you determine if you are reading or watching fake news.

1. Credentials

Is the source of the news story a known legitimate news outlet? Is it from a news source that is also available as broadcast news or an online or print magazine?

2. Objectivity

Does the author of the news story have an agenda? Are they associated with a special interest group? 3. Documentation Are sources given in the story? Can you find the sources cited to verify the information? Do individuals interviewed as sources have some kind of expertise on the topic, such as their profession, education or were they a witness to the news event?

4. Conclusions

Do the conclusions that the news story comes to about the topic line up with other sources on the topic? This is actually the most important piece since fake news sources may also fake credentials, documentation, etc.

Also Look Out For

Fake news sites are notorious for creating names similar to legitimate news sources to make their stories seem credible.

The sites below have more tips on how to spot fake news stories

Fake News Example Clickbait

You'll be Amazed!
It will Shock you!
You Won't Believe What Happens Next!
The Secret They Don't Want You to Know!
The Trick They Hate!

The headlines above are typical clickbait, always sensational.

What's Clickbait? Just what it sounds like: "content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page (Oxford Living Dictionaries)."

The problem with clickbait is that you don't always recognize it for what it is. What you get when you click on clickbait is a sensationalized misleading story. Here are some clickbait examples: 

Where to Get Your News

Fake news is everywhere. Media bias has become common. How do you sift through it all and find out what is true?

Use Library Databases & News Sites

You are more likely to get reliable news from library databases or Pulitzer Prize Winning News Sources. Even news sites and online news magazines are less likely to have fake news, though some are biased. More reliable biased sites let you know what their point of view is.

Use Multiple Sources

One of the best ways to determine accuracy is to use multiple sources. This is what scholars do. This is what faculty train college students to do when they write papers for courses. Scholars and faculty know that the more sources you review, the more likely you are to come to an accurate conclusion.

Ask Questions

When you review your multiple sources, ask yourself things like:

  1. What does the author know about the subject?
  2. Does the author have an agenda?
  3. Where did the author get the information?
  4. When was the material written?
  5. Has the material been reviewed for publication?

If your sources don't have information about the author or it is not clear where the author got the information, it makes it very hard for you to evaluate. Sources that clearly state these things are generally more reliable.