(NewsSpace.com) – Is that headline real or just hype to get your attention? Did that story happen the way they say it did?
You may feel at a loss when looking at news sources today. It’s tough to figure out what’s real and what’s clickbait. In fact, fake news has become so prevalent that you must do your own research before blindly believing anything you read or hear from mainstream media (MSM) sources.
Going with your “gut feeling” isn’t enough. Here are a few things you should do when you encounter a news story to discern if it’s real — or fake news.
Look at Multiple Sources
Most fake news stories come from only one news source. You should be able to find the story elsewhere, preferably from multiple sources, even if the story isn’t an exact match. While each may take their own angle, the core facts should be the same.
Be cautious when checking multiple sources, too. Look at a variety of different outlets, and remember that publishers may be owned by the same corporation. For example, CNN is ultimately owned by AT&T, who also owns 97 other companies. This is important because ownership may impact how or what a news outlet publishes.
Research Your Sources
It’s essential that you research a few different aspects of each story. Start by looking for the author and sources. All legitimate news outlets will provide both the author’s name as well as citations for the facts contained within.
Check out the reporter or author. Try to find out if he or she has a history of reporting fake news. Consider their overall reputation and credentials, too. Do they have the right level of expertise to report on the topic? Ideally, the reporter should have education or experience in the area in which he or she reports.
You should also consider the reputation of the publication. Explore whether it has a history of heavily biased reporting or issues with fake news. Finding a story that’s obviously untrue should be an instant red flag. But, remember that fake news can be more subtle, too.
Finally, check the date of the story. It’s especially common online for old news stories to pop back up and create controversy. Facts may change over time as new information becomes available. You should always look for the most recent updates on a subject.
Weed Out Bias
Bias is incredibly common in the news industry today. In fact, not a single media outlet is totally free from it, regardless of whether they claim to write without it or not. Stories will often slant in a certain direction when reporting on controversial or highly-debated subjects, such as race or politics. Being able to spot this is incredibly important.
Learn how to recognize when a publication’s or reporter’s bias is clouding the story. It can help to look for statements that voice an opinion, rather than sticking to the facts. If something stirs feelings in you towards one side of an issue, chances are it’s biased.
A good news story will limit this as much as possible. It’ll report on the facts and allow you to draw your own conclusions, without any type of coercion. News sources that use inflammatory language or emotionally-driven statements may be suspect.
Seek Out Primary Sources
One of the easiest ways for you to avoid fake news is to always seek out the primary source for a news story. A primary source is a first-hand account on a topic. Good examples include an eyewitness to a robbery, a government website on the law, or the text of a new bill.
Legitimate news stories should tell you where they got the information used to create a story. You should always go to that source and read, watch, or listen to it yourself.
Fake news is everywhere these days. It’s virtually impossible to avoid it, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe it or share it with others. Doing your research and taking the time to vet what you read or hear in the news can help you to get to the truth every time.
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