Clickbait headlines, made-up stories, partisan bias: these and other obstacles mean that getting the real story sometimes takes a couple of extra steps. As scholars, news consumers, and often news sharers, we're responsible for making sure we don't rely on or share bad or misleading stories.
Want to fact-check...
Want to dig deeper? Mike Caulfield has written an excellent guide to fact-checking online sources. A couple of key strategies he mentions:
What is media bias? Almost no one is perfectly neutral - including journalists. Whether consciously or unconsciously, one's personal perspective can come through in their writing. You should avoid pieces with extreme bias; but completely avoiding all bias is impossible and not that useful.The important thing is to be aware of the bias as you read, which will help you sort out opinion from fact.
Identifying bias. When reading, ask yourself - what does the writer think about the events described, or what do they want you to think? If it's easy to tell, you may be dealing with a strong bias; if it's hard or impossible to tell, the piece may be closer to neutral. You can also use outside resources to learn about an outlet's bias: for a quick check on an outlet's political leanings, try AllSides.
Read from multiple perspectives. Reading about the same facts with different "spin" can help you sort out the fact from the opinion. AllSides helpfully gathers articles written on the same topic from different perspectives.
Made-up news stories are nothing new - but they've been getting a lot of buzz lately, for good reason. A few tips:
(Video by FlackCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and "the political literacy companion site" to FactCheck.org)