Chapter 07: Evaluate News Sources
Every day we read news stories that we seek out, that friends and family send us, or that
appear in our social media feed. How can we figure out which stories are credible and worthy
of our attention?
1. Go to Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site where you have an account (if
you do not have an account, you can try searching some key terms on any search site).
Select three news stories that show up on your feed. For each, cite the source using APA
format (be sure you are using the correct format for articles from webpages).
2. The most important step is to evaluate the web address. Established news sources will
typically have a web address that ends in â€œ.com,â€ such as nbcnews.com or
washingtonpost.com. Much good journalistic content is available at .org and .net
addresses, but be suspicious and dig deeper when you see an ending other than .com.
Of course, all .coms are not reliable news sourcesâ€”this is just step one.
For each news story you identified, write down the source. Go to the sourceâ€™s web
pageâ€”what kind of stories do you see? Do a web search on the source nameâ€”what are
other reputable organizations saying about the source?
3. Check the labeling of the article to assess the type of content. Is the article labeled as
news, opinion, or analysis? A lot of time we hear bad things about bias: â€œBias! Bias is
always bad!â€ We read opinion because it is biased. But the best opinion publishers will
label the content as opinion, so you want to look for that label. The important point is to
realize what you are reading: Is it a factual news article or an opinion piece with a point
Look at the articles you selected. Are they labeled â€œopinionâ€ or â€œnewsâ€? Think about
ways you can find out whether the piece is news or opinion, if it is not labeled. What
kinds of language in the article might provide a clue as to whether it is news or opinion?
4. Check the attribution in the article and the sources cited. Are there links to credible
sources (government publications, research from prominent universities, and so on)? Do
the links provide information that backs up the points in the article?
Are there citations in the article? If so, what is cited? Can you read the citation too, or
does it not exist? Does the citation actually support the information that your original
article attributes to it, or has the article misinterpreted the citation?
5. Read the publicationâ€™s â€œAboutâ€ page (and be skeptical if itâ€™s missing). Is the publisher a
for-profit company or a nonprofit? If it is a nonprofit, does it list its funding sources? Is it
transparent about any political leaning? If there is advertising, is it high quality (â€œTest
Drive the Ford F-150 Todayâ€) or clickbait (â€œ13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing
Tatumâ€)? Is the publisher transparent about its staff? Are they journalists, or is it a
business and the content essentially an infomercial?
Go to the â€œAboutâ€ page for each of your sources. Read the page and analyze its
contents. What can you determine about the source? Who is on staff, and what roles do
they have? What conclusions can you draw about the publisher? Look at the ads
throughout the site. What is being advertised?
6. Figure out whoâ€™s producing this content. Is it written by the publicationâ€™s staff or
brought in from another source? If the content is copied or purchased from elsewhere,
you need to check out that source as well.
Look at the byline on your articlesâ€”the name of the person who wrote the piece. Can
you find that person on the sourceâ€™s page? What role do they play in the organization?
Do a web search on their name. What other stories that theyâ€™ve written come up?
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