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News Literacy

Breaking News Consumer Handbook

 

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook Fake News Edition Image
Courtesy of onthemedia.org and WYNC.

 

News Literacy Tools

Evaluating Information -- Applying the CRAAP Test
from the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico

The Process of Establishing Integrity Checklist
from Dr. Susan Maret, School of Information, San Jose State University

FactPopUp
from the Duke Reporters' Lab

Outside Your Bubble
from Buzzfeed

Addressing Hoaxes and Fake News
from Facebook News Feed

NPR's How to Tell Fake News from Real News in the "Post-Truth" Era

Is the story so outrageous you can't believe it? Maybe you shouldn't. Respect the voice inside you that says, "What?"

Is the story so outrageous you do believe it? That's also a warning sign. Many stories play on your existing beliefs. If the story perfectly confirms your worst suspicions, look for more information.

Does the headline match the article? Many compelling headlines don't.

Does the article match the news story it's lifted from? Many sites rewrite other news articles to fit the political slant of their presumed audience. Look for links to original sources and click through and see what the original says.

Are quotes in context? Look for the sentences before and after the quote that makes your blood boil. If the article fails to give them, that's a warning sign.

Is the story set in the future? It's hard to get firsthand reporting from there. Any story that tells you what will happen should be marked down 50 percent for this reason alone.

Does the story attack a generic enemy? Vague denunciations of "Washington" or "the media" or "Trump supporters" or "the left" should be marked down 99 percent. Good reporting doesn't make these kinds of generalizations and is specific about who is making a claim about what.

Are you asked to rely on one killer factoid? Not a good idea. If a hacked document "proves" an implausible conspiracy, look for the context that shows what the document really means. As for photos and video, use Ronald Reagan's old slogan: trust but verify. If there's any doubt about a "stunning" video, see if more traditional sources link to it. They love video clicks as much as anyone. If they refrain, there may be good reason.

Who is the news source, anyway? Traditional news brands may occasionally get it wrong — sometimes hugely wrong — but at least you know where to find them and hold them accountable. Less prominent news sites might carry compelling stories — but expect them to show you who they are and where they gathered information.

Does the news source appear to employ editors? Many news organizations produce stories that are checked before publication. Others don't. It's a big deal. Hiring an editorial staff shows the publication's respect for you, and matters more than "political bias." The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, for example, have different owners, audiences, stories, perspectives and obsessions. Both have made mistakes and omissions; but both send reporters out into the world and back them up with an editorial process that catches and corrects many errors. This means both can be informative, regardless of your politics or theirs.

Are you told, "Trust me"? Don't. It's the post-trust era! Expect everyone to show where their facts come from, link to underlying articles, and demonstrate that they've argued honestly. Here's a way they may bolster their credibility:

Did the writer engage with anyone who disagrees? Did they call a senator whose legislation bugs them? Did they try to grasp what the president-elect was doing, or merely repeat one of his more outrageous statements? If it's a broadcast interview, was the guest presented with genuine opposing views and challenged to answer? Those who wrestle with opposing arguments do you a service and often improve their own arguments.

Broaden your palate. Make a point to check sites that do not agree with your politics. You may discover stories that are wrong — but you'll know what other people are consuming, which will sharpen your own thinking.

Be open to the idea that some falsehoods are sincerely held. In spite of all the warnings here, some inaccurate news stories grow out of haste or misinformation rather than pure cynicism. (But they're still false.)

If a news source consistently passes the tests in this guide, support it. Gathering reliable information isn't free. Helping to pay for it aligns the news source's interests with yours.

from A Finder's Guide to Facts, National Public Radio, December 11, 2016