Fake News

By Apr.07, 2017

Be a savvy news consumer – Joanna gives some useful reminders.

Fake news has become a hot news topic! We all want our news to be accurate, truthful, and honest, so how do you sort out truth from lies, or identify exaggerated stories, or facts reported out of context?

The simplest strategy is to make sure you get your news from a variety of sources – don’t get stuck in your own media “bubble”. Be critical and analyse any news you share on social media.  We all have a responsibility not to spread lies.

There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some things to think about –

  • Beware sensational headlines. Not every shocking headline is associated with fake news – but it’s a warning sign.
  • Be very cautious about stories intended to prompt an extreme emotional response, particularly anger. Verify the story from other known, reliable sources.
  • Check whether other “mainstream” news sources are reporting the story.
  • Take a look at the domain name. Does it suggest a bias, or potential unreliability?
  • Check out the “About us” tab, or look at the contact details. Is the content attributable to a “real” person, or an identifiable organisation? Do they have a particular agenda? Look for more information about the author or organisation.
  • Look for supporting evidence. Use a fact checking site if appropriate (FullFact.org Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, Snopes.com etc). Follow up links to research studies, or data sources. Ask yourself if they are authoritative. Look for other reports about the same study. Remember fake news doesn’t have to be “made up”. Facts reported selectively can be dangerously misleading.

Looking for more?

For a more comprehensive overview of Fake News and how to spot it, check out the University of Rhode Island’s excellent resource

News Literacy and Alternative Facts: How to Be a Responsible Information Consumer

And Remember –

As University students you should routinely evaluate all the resources you use for your own research and assignments, particularly anything found via internet sources.

  1. How up-to-date is the information? Is it still current?
  2. Is this information source going to help me write my essay? Is it relevant to my topic?
  3. Is this “the right sort” of information – is it suitable for academic purposes? Is the author an expert in this subject area? Is the information reliable and accurate?
  4. Why has this information been written? What is its purpose? Is there any bias I need to take account of?
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