Tips for savvy news consumers

How are we to judge if news stories, Internet accounts, photos or video clips are accurate and truthful? Using these tips will help you tell what’s real.

  1. Think critically about the news. Ask yourself:
    Is it news? Is the story depicted as an event that actually happened? Or is it something else, such as opinion or advertising?

    Is it accurate?
    Consider the source of the information. Did it appear in a news publication, on a news broadcast or on an Internet site created   by a news organization? Beyond that, who provided the information? Is the information factual?

    Is it fair?
    If the issue being reported is complex, are different sides presented? Does the writer seem to want to persuade you of something? Does the publication, newscast or Internet site seem to have a bias?

  2. Recognize that truth emerges in bits and pieces.
    Learn to rely on diverse news sources.
    Use many different media sources: newspapers, newscasts, online services, etc. Become familiar with the approaches of a variety of news people, news outlets and Web sites.

    Form your opinions over time.
    Do not assume that a story you watch, read or download on any one day tells the whole story. Follow stories   as they develop.

  3. Apply all you’ve learned — and even more — when evaluating information on the Web.
    With a single keystroke or the click of a mouse, anyone with a home computer and Internet access can spread news to millions of people. But of all those people posting all that information, how many have double- and triple-checked the accuracy of their material? How many have biases they want you to believe? How many have picked up the material they are transmitting from other, possibly unreliable, sources? Ask yourself: Can this information be trusted? Does it ring true? Is it in good taste? Am I getting the whole story?

Reprinted, with permission, from “Media Ethics: Where Do You Draw the Line?” by Rosalind G. Stark (Arlington, Va.: The Freedom Forum Newseum Inc.), 1999, p. 62.

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