How You Easily Spot Fake News
Let’s face it: today’s media is rife with biases both apparent and concealed. Finding news sources and stories that are reliable is like searching through a minefield. Being informed is no longer an easy or simple process. To evaluate your news stories, follow these guidelines.
As an American citizen I’m very proud Donald Trump has brought new-found awareness for Americans and the world to discern News, Social and Local outlets.
1. Who Are You?
Examine the source of the article. Who’s the author, and what are his/her credentials? Is the website obviously biased (i.e. the bias is clearly named in the website’s title)? When was the article written? If the article’s author is unnamed or doesn’t have any knowledge about the field, proceed with caution. If the source is biased, try finding one without an obvious leaning. If the article is outdated, find a more recent one.
2. Where Are You Getting This?
If the article contains links or quotes from other places, follow those places. Examples of things you want to see are government documents or websites, official interviews, published books, quotes, surveys from respected places, etc. Things you don’t want to see are biased sources, paraphrased quotes, rumored quotes, and fishy contacts (‘a source in Washington’).
Similarly, if the article claims something outright (ex: This President has spent more on the military than any other, or voter fraud is a real issue in the US) and doesn’t back it up with any data, discard the statement entirely or do your own research to find the truth. Facts stated without proof aren’t facts, they’re claims. Unbiased sources will contain few, if any, of these sort of declarations.
3. What Are You Suggesting?
Finally, examine the article for the goal of the writer or piece. How do they hope readers will feel? What do they want readers to do, if anything? Most news sources will have a goal for each piece. This is normal. However, if you are aware of that goal, you can read with caution and awareness instead of automatic acceptance of opinionated phrasing.
If you have trouble spotting a goal, scan for inflammatory or suggestive language. Examples of this kind of wording: “hand out guns” instead of “allow guns to be purchased.” Another example of inflammatory or purposeful wording in American media is the use of the term “Obamacare” by conservative media but “Affordable Care Act” by liberal outlets. Each is correct, but one term has positive implications. The other does not.
4. A Word of Caution
When you read headlines, don’t accept the headline. Evaluate your sources using these simple steps, and you will avoid taking a stretched truth as an absolute one. While becoming informed is easier today than ever before, becoming properly informed is not. Biases are everywhere, but practice makes them easier to spot and avoid when forming your own opinions. Good luck!