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Evaluating Information and Avoiding Fake News

It is easy to find information on the Internet but the majority of wepages won't be suitable to be cited in your university assignment, therefore you must critically evaluate the information before you consider using it for an assignment.

Try the Internet Detective tutorial if you need some practise with evaluating websites.

What makes real news real? (1) Real news is presented by real news sources. Check your news source for a code of ethics or mission statement. (2) Real news is written by reporters with degrees in journalism and, often, in the fields in which they write. (3) The primary goal of real news is to inform. If you're mad, scared, furious, or anxious, you will want to investigate the article's claims further. (4) Real news can be verified. You should be able to find reports, statistics, and other real news articles that support what you're reading.

Ethical Journalism

One of the ways in which a news source demonstrates its authenticity and responsibility to its readers is through a publicly accessible code of ethics or standards.  A sample of various codes, mission statements and ethics handbooks are listed below.

Other tips for fact checking and avoiding fake news

  1. When you open up a news article in your browser, open a second, empty tab.  Use that second window to look up claims, author credentials and organizations that you come across in the article.
  2. Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, even still images. Be prepared to double-check everything.
  3. Beware of confirmation bias.  Just because you might agree with what an article is saying doesn't mean it's true.
  4. As Mad-Eye Moody said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, "Constant Vigilance!"  Always be ready to fact check.
  5. Even the best researchers will be fooled once in a while.  If you find yourself fooled by a fake news story, use your experience as a learning tool.

Select a claim to examine

Compare these two links.  Which one do you think is true?  Why or why not?
1 - Eat This Not That: Shocking Facts About Farmed Salmon
2 - Washington State Department of Health: Farmed vs. Wild Salmon

What to think about when thinking about the news. (1) What is the main idea of the article What is the point this article is trying to make? Was it easy to find? Does the title of the article make sense? (2) How does this article want me to feel? What kind of language is being used? Are the images positive or negative? Do you see lots of exclamation points and words in bold that make you pay attention to them? (3) Does this article provide evidence for its claims from good sources? Are the links provded sending you to medical articles, articles in well-researched publications, or statistical sites? Or are they sending you to "alternative" sites with little factual information? (4) Am I able to independently verify claims in this article? If a claim doesn't have a link in the article, can I find information on it myself? Are all the links simply recycled from one source, or are there multiple tests, surveys, studies, or other sources available?

(1) Check the author. Who created your news - A real journalist or someone with good knowledge of their subject? Or are they just some blogger with an agenda? Can you even find the author's name? (2) Check your gut - Fake news sources use emotional language to scare you or make you made. Real news tends to stick to facts with sources or proof. (3) Check the date - Information has an expiration date. Old issues may have already been resolved, but are being presented to you as new. Be wary of sources without a date. (4) Check the source - Good news sources will tell you how they acquire and check their facts, how they treat their sources, and what they do in case the're wrong. Bad news sources won't tell you anything at all.