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Evaluating Sources: Evaluating News

A guide to evaluating information and resources found online and in print.

Intro to News Sources

Not all news sources are reliable. They may lean heavily towards one philosophy, belief, or system. Sometimes it can be very difficult to determine what are reliable news sources vs. news sources that claim to be real or unbiased but are driven by entertainment value or money.

How to Spot Fake News

How to Spot Fake News Graphic from the International Federation of Library Associations

Fake vs. Biased

There is also a difference between "fake news" and "biased news"

Fake news involves completely fabricated stories with no basis.

Biased news involves the news source selecting info about real events which fits their agenda or beliefs. Biased news typically only presents one side of a story, leaving out facts and data which support the other side. Biased news may also sensationalize the story to draw in readers. 

Questions to Ask Yourself When Reading News

What type of article are you reading?

  • A news story is a factual story about a person, place or event answering five questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. 
  • An editorial is a brief article written by an editor that expresses a newspaper's or publishing house's own views and policies on a current issue.
  • An opinion piece is an article in which the writer expresses their personal opinion about a particular issue or item of news.
  • An advertisement is a paid, public communication about causes, goods, services, ideas, organizations, people, or places designed to inform or motivate.
  • A satirical piece uses satire, irony, and humor to either comment on real-world news events or create fictionalized news stories. Examples of satirical news sources include The Onion and Faking News.

Does the headline and the lead support the main point of the story? 

  • Many unreliable news sources sensationalize an article's headline or lead to gain clicks. 
  • What is unknown, unanswered, or unclear should be acknowledged. 
  • Other sides should be given a chance to present their argument. 
  • Many breaking stories are incomplete or inaccurate due to deadlines and the 24hr news cycle. If more information is made available, the story should be updated accordingly. Look at the bottom of article for a list of article updates.

What evidence supports the main point of the story and has this evidence been verified? What evidence has not been verified? 

  • Evidence is not the same as a source. Evidence is the proof a source offers. Evidence that is verified has been checked and corroborated via a stated method of verification.  

What kind of sources are cited in the article and are they reliable?

  • A source is the person, report, or data being quoted in an article. 
  • Sources can be named or unnamed. Multiple or single. Credentialed or not. Close to the event/issue or not. Named, multiple, credentialed, close sources are preferred, though in some cases an anonymous source may not be named due to potential backlash or harm to the source for speaking out. 
  • When looking at reports or data as a source, be sure to look at the producer of the information. Do they have a stake in the event or issue that could make the report or data biased? 

Does the writer or source make their work transparent and follow a code of ethics?

  • A code of ethics, standards, or guidebook should be associated with the news source and easy to find.
  • Potential conflicts of interest or known associations should be stated up front in an article. 
  • Funding and ownership of the media production should be publicly available. 

Adapted from University of Texas Libraries: Evaluating News Sources.

News Sources

Fact Checking Sites