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Fake News, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Learning to Critically Evaluate Media Sources

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Newsweek, 25 August 1986, p. 27.

Accountability I: Use News Sources with Explicit Editorial Policies & Ethical Standards

Look for journalistic standards of reporting. High-quality, investigative news sources have explicit editorial policies and follow a code of ethics or professional standards. Examples: Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics; Ethical Journalism Network's 5 Principles of Ethical Journalism.

Does the news source you are using have an explicit Editorial Policy?
Does it follow a Code of Ethics?
Lack of an explicit editorial policy or a statement of ethical standards is a red flag indicating suspect content.

Specific examples of policies and standards:

Accountable sources issue corrections for errors and inaccuracies they subsequently discover. Fake news sources are not accountable for their content. Fake news creates or uses content that is partially fabricated or contain misleading information as well as outright falsehoods.

Accountability II: Look for Qualified Article Authors

Accountable sources usually sign their stories and take personal responsibility for the content.

Articles should have bylines (the names of the authors). An individual or group of individuals take personal and professional responsibility for the accuracy of the information in the article. Lack of a byline is a red flag indicating suspect content.

Click on the byline if it's linked. Where does it lead?

Search for the authors' names. Is there a LinkedIn profile? some other form of biographical information? What have these writers done in the past? What background and experience qualify them to write on the article topic?

Credit: Center for News Literacy

Some of the content on this page is adapted from Center for News Literacy, Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Lesson 8: Source Evaluation.