Today, news has taken a turn for the worse. Not only are there more and more news outlets, there are more and more fake news outlets. Trying to wade through these waters is no easy task and it is very easy to be caught unaware and fall prey to believing unsubstantiated claims. While there is no black and white answer to which news is real or fake, there are ways to critically think about the information you are reading and decide for yourself if it is worthy of the title “news.”
Can you tell a real news site from a fake news site? Visit these three sites and see if you can figure out if any of them are fake: cbc.ca, nationalreport.net, abcnews.com.co. They all look like real news sites, don’t they? But they are not! The first one, cbc.ca, is a real news site, but the other two are fake. Click on this link for a list of fake news sites.
Here are some excellent questions you can ask when looking at a news story in order to help you decide whether it is “real” or “fake” (summarized from the TedED Blog, How to Tell Fake News from Real News).
1. Who wrote it? Real news contains the byline of the journalist. A byline gives the date, as well as the name of the writer. Traditionally, this is placed between the title and the body of the article. It can also be found at the end of the article. Fake news does not contain a byline – this means that you cannot look for the writer’s credentials and form an opinion on their motivation for writing the article.
2. What sources does it use? Real news includes multiple primary sources when discussing a controversial claim. These sources can be verified if the reader is unsure. Fake news often includes fake sources that can be disproven through further research. Always remember that facts can be verified with some extra research.
3. When was it published? Look at the publication date. If it’s breaking news, be extra careful. Often when a story breaks, the media will get it wrong. Fake news sites love an unsubstantiated story that is controversial. Give the real news reporters time to substantiate claims and you will get the most truthful account. Try not to share these breaking news stories right away – it adds fuel to the fire.
4. Where was it published? Real news is published by trustworthy media outlets with a strong record for checking facts. If you aren’t sure, dig a bit deeper and take a look at their history of published work. If you get your news primarily via social media, try to verify that the information is accurate before you share it. For example, on Twitter you might look for the blue “verified” checkmark next to a media outlet name.
5. How does it make you feel? Fake new is meant to make you feel strong emotions. If this is the case, double check the claims by comparing them to the news you get from your trusted news sites. If they make the same claims, you can feel confident that the news is real.
While these tips are by no means an exhaustive list of how to combat fake news in your life, they are a great way to start noticing the difference between credible and non-credible news sources. Armed with this information, you will have a much lesser chance of being duped by those who are trying to confuse you.
So now it’s time to test your knowledge. The Globe and Mail, a real news site, has an excellent article about fake news and a fun quiz you can take (the quiz is located towards the end of the article). Try the quiz and find out how good you are at recognizing the difference between real and fake news!
Good luck navigating these ever-changing waters of real and fake news!
Community Literacy Coordinator
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy - Golden