While Facebook cracks down on “fake news,” government officials delete Tweets with false statements and family members bash the media, many students can’t help but wonder if there’s any way to find the truth about what’s going on in the world.
In the Age of Information, we seem to be surrounded by lies. Society moved from hearing things “through the grapevine” to sharing political gossip on social media. As your student media, we are in the unique position of both consuming and producing news information while learning all about it in our classes. So here’s our tips to reading media with discernment.
- Check the sources. Credible journalists use various sources to compile a story. When you read, look for phrases like “President Trump said,” “Chick-Fil-A announced,” or “according to the event website.” Those are signs the writer didn’t just make up the whole story. If you read a story with no quotes or no attribution it could potentially be fake news. As you read, think about who or what the source is and how they could be biased. If a famous bicyclist says, “cycling is good for the soul,” he obviously has a bias in favor of cycling, but that doesn’t mean cycling is really good for the soul.
- Read the whole story. Headlines can be deceiving. If you click into a story that seems a little out there, you might quickly realize its far-fetched claims don’t hold up.
- Cross examine the story. Did you read something crazy? Cross check it with an established news source like NPR, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, New York Times or CNN. While no one site is guaranteed bias-free, these institutions are known for solid reporting. If you can’t find anything credible to back up your alleged “news”, odds are you have been baited with some fake information.
- Look for multiple voices. Try to find a story that doesn’t just have one type of person discussing a controversial topic. The best stories have sources with varying viewpoints, like a Democrat and a Republican, a black man and a white woman, a supporter and an opposer etc.
- Check the date. Is the news timely? Or is it from two years ago? Don’t let the small type of the date in the byline get overlooked. You could be reading something not at all relevant for the time.
- Be wary of visual manipulation. Fake news sites are designed to trick you. They are going to look like the real thing. Designers have powerful tools at their disposal to fool the common viewer. Keep your guard up and scrutinize the details – you might catch some things that are fake news site tipoffs.
- Sift before you share. Don’t hit the share button until you have discerned the validity of a story. The danger of fake news and clickbait headlines is how easily it spreads. The eagerness to share these charged stories only further divides people.
These are just a few tips from your fellow students who study this in our classes every day.