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Fake News & Evaluating Information: Getting Started

This guide will help you to verify and utilize fact-based news resources for research purposes.

This page is intended to help you to verify and utilize fact-based news resources for research purposes.

What is Fake News?

According to University of Michigan Library, fake news is simply news stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources, or quotes.

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information.

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Tips

What to do:

 

  1. Read/watch/listen very widely.

  2. Some generally reliable sources are (some of which require a subscription): The New York TimesThe Washington Post, The Boston GlobeThe Wall Street JournalForbesThe AtlanticNational Public RadioPBS NewsHour, The Economist, The Pew Research Center, Democracy Now, as well as various local sources.

  3. Recognize that even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness.

  4. Be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.

What to avoid:

  1. “Fake, false, regularly misleading sites” which rely on “outrage” using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits” (examples: Politicalo)‚Äč

  2. Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information (examples: ConsciousLifeNews.com)

  3. These websites sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions (examples: BipartisanReport.comTheFreeThoughtProject.com)

  4. Purposefully fake satire/comedy sites that can offer critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news (examples: TheOnion.com)