News is in the news. We have all heard about the fake news found on Facebook. We also cannot get away from President Trump’s accusations of biased, unprofessional journalists. In the past, we knew which news we could trust, and which news was suspect. Today, the topic is not so clear cut.
The internet provides us access to news from all over the world, almost instantaneously. Add in the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, and you have information overload available to us 24/7. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that all the information you find is true or accurate. No matter what anyone says, there is no governing body that guarantees that everything on the internet is true.
There is also no guarantee that your news is not biased. As a matter of fact, it is nearly guaranteed that it is, at least a little, because everyone sees things through their own lens. It is pretty hard to not get at least some bias in your news, but you should at least know the direction of the source's bias. Article bias can be determined by computers. Hopefully, soon, it will become an app we can all use. Until then, research your news sites. Do they lean left or right? Do they favor business interests or do they prefer to cover the average joe’s point of view?
Before going into how to find the best source for news, let’s talk about where American’s do get their news. First, it varies a lot between age groups, but 47 percent say they still get their news from television. The same percentage says they get it from the internet. When asked what their main source of news was, 32 percent of respondents said Facebook. After considering the data that 58 percent of Americans say they trust their news source, it becomes clear that some people are not taking responsibility for getting accurate news.
The question becomes how do you find accurate news? The answer is a two-step process: 1) find news outlets that have been verified reliable by multiple sources 2) use at least two different sources for your news. This is the same as most people have been doing for years. Before the proliferation of the internet, we read the local morning paper and then watched the evening news. Now, instead of one or two local papers and three or four news channels, there are probably hundreds of sites where you can get “news.” Which sites to trust is the problem.
Find news outlets that have been verified reliable by multiple sources.
There are several ways you can do this. A good place to start is with the major media channels such as CBS, NBC, or PBS. They are not necessarily the most unbiased sources, but it is unlikely they will run fake news, and certainly not deliberately. This article which gives a great list of news sources and who trusts them is a great place to start.
When you read articles on these news sources, you will often see a byline including the original source, such as Reuters or Associated Press. Whenever possible, it is always good to go to the original source of the information. These two, in particular, are highly regarded and considered unbiased sources. They have been providing news to smaller papers for many years and their reputations were built on responsible journalism.
Use at least two different news sources.
Everyone falls victim to confirmation bias, the practice of embracing information that confirms our belief and rejecting or ignoring information that contradicts. To counteract this tendency, get your news from at least two different sources, preferably with different leanings. This list is a good source of information about whether a site is liberal or conservative. See where your favorite site falls and then bookmark a site on the other end of the spectrum.
By using at least two different sources, you can easily identify fake news. If you can only find the story on one site, or on multiple sites with the same byline, there is a good chance it is fake. True, if it is on a reputable site, a journalist might have just gotten the scoop of a lifetime, but give it 24 hours. If it is still the only article about the subject, be suspicious.
One other step for accurate information is to use a fact-checking site. They are paid to debunk stories, hoaxes, and scams. There are several reputable sites out there: FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, the Washington Post Fact Checker and PolitiFact.com. Not only can you check information from last night’s political speech, you can also look at those suspicious emails you’ve been getting or debunk that rumor spreading at the water cooler.
Final note, if you insist on getting your news from Facebook or Twitter, at least educate yourself on the ways to spot fake news: the site has a suspicious website address, the article is missing an author or byline, and quotes or facts stated in the article are inaccurate.
It is everyone’s responsibility to be reliably informed about what is going on in the world. While often it feels we have no chance of changing or improving the things, it is not true. By simply intelligently discussing and talking about the topics that are important to us, we influence others, who talk with others, and so on. When a tipping balance is reached, changes can be made. As a citizen of your community, being reliably and intelligently informed is your responsibility.