The List: 5 ways to verify your news

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, September 17th, 2020 at 12:51 PM
The List: 5 ways to verify your news by Emily Anderson
Photo: Pexels.com

These days, getting your news can be a complicated process. With the number of possible outlets, and political leanings tied to those outlets, how do you actually get the unfiltered truth? This list is a good starting point. Be vigilant in the lead-up to the 2020 General Election.

Check your sources.

These days, it’s really easy to rely on social media to give you all the news you need to know. But while social media can be an effective way of getting the broad strokes of major news stories, or getting in-the-moment live commentary from your local reporters, don’t end your news consumption there. Ad Fontes Media has a good starting point in their media bias chart. How does your favorite news outlet rank when it comes to their political leanings? Aim for something in the middle. 

When reading news on social media, also ask yourself, “How do they know that?” If the story has no sources, no quotes from someone directly linked to the situation, or a lack of basic understand about the concept as a whole, it may not be a reliable piece of journalism. Some social platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have implemented fact checking systems to alert users when news may not be reliable or correct. Most uses have sprung up around firestorm issues, such as mail-in voting and recent tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Each social platform boasts over 1 billion users; it’s possible for information to slip through the cracks and not be correctly reported. Or for people to outright lie.  

Don’t be lured in by sensationalized headlines and images.

Headlines with outrageous claims and trigger words that ignite a reader’s personal feelings are a great way for a news site to get a lot of clicks, but that doesn’t mean the reporting will be worthwhile. Make sure to look past flashy headlines and check that the information is being reported correctly. Again, ask yourself the question, “How do they know that?”.

Along the same line, don’t be fooled by edited images. It’s very easy to manipulate a photo to fit a narrative. If the photo looks unbelievable, it might not be real. A picture of former U.S. President Barack Obama meeting the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted by Arizona State Rep. Paul A. Gosar, was not real. These two never met, but this image would make a reader believe that they did.

Search other news outlets to see if they’re reporting on the same thing.

If news is really that breaking and important, it’s likely that multiple sources will be reporting on it. If you find an article that looks to be credible on a not-so-credible site, check larger news outlets to see if they are reporting the same thing. If they are, they may have more information beyond what you've already read. They also may be able to provide more sources for you to look into further if you’re compelled to do so. 

Also, this will be a great chance to see how different outlets frame the same news event in different ways. This may, in turn, give you an indication of their political leanings.

See when it was published 

News moves incredibly fast. As new information comes to light, old information may no longer be relevant or correct. Making sure you are reading the most recent news available ensures you get the most reliable information. Articles that are outdated can be misleading. Check publication date before reading!

Also, know that good journalism recognizes itself as a work-in-progress. When tracking an ongoing story, you’ll want reporters that are continually hunting for new developments, while then informing you of the next chapter. In the famous work, “The Elements of Journalism,” the authors — Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel — mention that once a journalist obtains the facts, they “strive to convey a fair and reliable account of meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigations.” A first account will build to a second, with more context layered in. Most of all, mistakes are corrected, if needed. If your reporter doesn’t bother correcting past mistakes, they may not be worth reading. 

Check Biases 

In order to make sure the news you are consuming is the best possible, make sure to check personal biases and ones the news source may have. Confirmation bias, the terndancy to search for, believe, recall, and favor information that matches one’s own beliefs can distort the way somone consumes news. For example, if you feel really strongly against one particular politican, you may be inclined to believe negative news about them, even if it’s false.

Make sure to acknowledge your own biases and the source's biases before believing what you read. Once again, Ad Fontes Media has a media bias chart that allows consumers to see how leaning their favorite outlet’s reporting is.

Emily Anderson is the Voices Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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