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Misinformation and Media Bias (Alexandria)

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Misinformation & Fact Checking

What makes a news story false or misleading?

1. It can't be verified.
A false or misleading news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the site's domain or may not contain information pertinent to the article topic.

2. It appeals to emotion.
Deliberately misleading news plays on your emotions, it can make you angry or happy or scared. Writers of 'fake' news know that articles that appeal to extreme emotion are more likely to get clicks. If an article makes you really angry or super sad, check those facts!

3. Authors usually are not experts.
Sometimes they are not even journalists; often they are employees paid to write click-bait. Check the author's credentials by running their name through a search engine to see where else and what else they have written.

4. The claims cannot be easily found elsewhere.
If you look up the main idea of the news article in a search engine you may not be able to find it covered in any reputable news sources.

5. Is the site legit?
Did your article come from abcnews.com.co? Or mercola.com? Realnewsrightnow.com? These and a host of others regularly post false or misleading information.

How to Fact-Check Like a Pro.  Sick and tired of seeing misinformation? Never know who or what to trust? Can't figure out if what you've heard is true? Feel duped? Want better tools to sort truth from fiction? Here's a quick guide to sorting out facts, weighing information and being knowledgeable online and off.  1. Check Credentials. Is the author specialized in the field that the article is concerned with? Does she currently work in that field? Check LinkedIn or do a quick Google search to see if the author can speak about the subject with authority and accuracy. 2. Look for Bias. Does the article seem to lean toward a particular point of view? Does it link to sites, files or images that seem to skew left of right? Biased articles may not be giving you the whole story.  3. Check the Sources. When an article cites sources, it's good to check them out. Sometimes, official-sounding associations are really biased think tanks or represent only a fringe view of a large group of people. If you can't find sources, read as much about the topic as you can to get a feel for what's already out there and decide for yourself if the article is accurate or not. 4. Check the Dates. Like eggs and milk, information can have an expiration date. In many cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find. 5. Judge Hard. If what you're reading seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.

For even more details on how to fact-check, go to the How to Check a Claim page in this guide.

Based on a guide by Indiana University East Campus Library and a guide by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.