News today is easier to access than ever before, but, in some ways, it is harder to decipher and digest than ever, too. Nowadays, it is common to scroll through social media feeds and come across false written content or deepfake videos, which use machine learning to make it appear that something untrue has occurred. Thankfully, there are several ways to determine whether a piece of information is legitimate, and there are many steps you can take to ensure that you are reading correct information when you search for a news story.
Decipher Real vs. “Fake” News
In our highly politicized society, it’s not uncommon to hear people calling all information they don’t agree with “fake news.” But with so many websites generating and reposting articles that look like news, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a fact-checked news story and a piece of fabricated or unsourced information. Harvard Summer School has published a four-step process to verify the reliability and likely truth of a news story. First, readers should examine the author’s credibility, then critique the quality of the writing (e.g., look for correct grammar and punctuation) and assess whether the information is current. Finally, readers should check the article’s sources and citations, and, if the credibility of the article is still not clear, readers should fact-check the information themselves on FactCheck.org or Snopes.
Look for Funding Disclosures and Biases
Along with verifying information in an individual article, it is equally important to assess the quality of the website where the article was published. Typically, this means checking to see if the site mentions a parent company or funding partner. Many sites include this type of information in their “about” pages, which give readers access to important information about the company. Most legitimate news organizations’ websites have an about page, which typically include a company overview, which explains the purpose of the news organization, where it gathers its information, how it is distributed, and by whom. For further information, the American Press Institute has a page dedicated to press disclosures and their proper usage.
Know the Difference Between Trade Publications and News Publications
Many different types of news publications exist in the world. Most people are familiar with traditional news organizations, which aim to inform readers about breaking news stories, topics that are in the headlines around the world or nation, and local happenings. But many industries also have their own types of niche news publications, which tend to focus on innovations that pertain to that specific sector. The Wall Street Journal, for example, is one of the most widely distributed trade publications in the world, with a specific focus on business, finance, stocks and trading news. But there are more niche trade publications, as well, such as the Commercial Observer, which focuses on construction and commercial real estate deals in New York City. If you are looking for a niche story about technology, business, or another industry with its own news outlets, a trade publication will be able to give you more high-level, in-depth information on a given topic. Conversely, if you are looking for breaking news or a story pertaining to your municipality, you are more likely to find adequate coverage of the topic featured in a traditional news outlet.
Get the News Without Worrying About Misinformation
There are so many news publications today that it can feel impossible to keep up with every story, every issue, and even every section of a paper. But there are many ways to consume the news without feeling like you’re drowning in an endless stream of articles. Because of this barrage of available content coming from potentially biased sources, it is easy to fall victim to a fake news article that looks like it comes from a legitimate source. One easy way to know you are reading reputable information is to subscribe to reliable news outlets that deliver the news to you. An easy option when you want the news to come to you is by downloading news apps that send push notifications, like the mobile app for The Guardian, which does not hide its content behind a paywall. This Manchester-based paper publishes UK news, American news, Australian news, and also has a comprehensive international edition, which covers top stories from around the world.
If push notifications are not your style, email newsletters like The Skimm send top national and world news stories to your inbox every morning. The Skimm includes a short paragraph explaining each story in further detail, with links to reputable articles and web pages describing each issue. There are several other types of morning email newsletters if you have more specific interests, such as Healthline’s Daily News for the health-conscious reader or Morning Brew for the business-minded individual. And if you find that reading the news is too time-consuming or depressing but still want to be informed, The New York Times runs a podcast called “The Daily,” which recaps the top stories of the day and explains them in a conversational, digestible tone.