You Do the Fact Check!
Ask lots of questions!
|Cross-check the facts!
Are there sources or statistics cited? Are these verifiable? Look up "facts" that are used to support any arguement. Are these consistently reported across sources, both conservative and liberal. If not, they may be spin. Look for agreed upon information. Ask yourself, can this information be checked against public record?
HUHS Librarian, 2007-2014
OpenSecrets is a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group tracking money in U.S. politics and it's effect on elections and public policy. Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the organization "aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more transparent and responsive government."
- Never assume ideas presented in the news are complete.
Journalists apply the standard questions....who-what-when-where-why-how... during their investigation. Still, bias on the part of the interviewer or the interviewee can lead to an incomplete picture. Ask yourself: Who didn't they interview? What other sources might fill in the details?
- Never assume language used is neutral.
Word choice can have a significant impact on the reader's reaction to information. Are the words used positive or negative? Provocative or reassuring? Consider "inheritance tax" vs. "death tax." How does each evoke different reactions for different people?
- Never assume words mean the same thing to all people.
While we all speak the same language, local, generational, and personal connotations can effect how we interpret what we read. Our understandings may not be the same as the writer or the subject's. Read around the words into the context and tone to get a better grasp of the writer's meaning.
Watch out for...
News is sponsored by advertisers. Does the news presented reflect the advertisements embedded within the media?
News agencies look for "breaking stories," often relegating old news to the back page or leaving it entirely uncovered. Scan the back pages too!
Including visuals will draw the reader's attention. Do images presented evoke specific responses? Do they prejudice the reader to view the news one way?
Good news is less exciting than news that is shocking or frightening. Does the media exaggerate details to make a story more interesting? Does the news agency focus only on the negative aspects of a story?
Writers will generally develop a plotline - beginning, middle, and end - complete with drama. News, however, is rarely so tidy. Remind yourself that stories you read in the news are "unfolding." If a story captures your attention, its best to follow that story over a period of time.
Ethical journalism is, in theory, fair. When a controversy arises, reporters will generally attempt to get the "other side" of the story. When a rebuttal is reported, it can seem like the media is taking one side or another. Read carefully to determine if presentation of both arguements is neutral.
News is driven by deadlines. Those deadlines sometimes mean that reporters will return to experts they know well and have had successful contacts with previously. This may slant news in towards the political views of these experts.