The publication is transparent about its publication and editorial processes: publication, funding, and editorial staff information is easily available, and editorial guidelines are clear and consistent. Biases are openly acknowledged, and retractions or corrections are issued when details are reported inaccurately.
Good news organizations have layers of editors and fact-checkers, motivated to "get it right" by market share and codes of ethics. But you are the final layer of vetting. You can make sure your primary news sources have the infrastructure to "get it right" more often than not, but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down. Below is some information about bias and openness, and some websites to help you account for bias, and plugins to help you filter out the worst sites for misinformation.
Good news organizations should be open about their editorial and publication staffs. Management & editorial staff listings (called the "masthead") are printed in every print edition of most newspapers. Good web publications are also transparent. To find out who is publishing a news outlet, go to the About page or search in Google. Reputable news organizations should make available:
News organizations should:
If any one of these three elements is missing, it's simply not journalism. It's something else: advertising, propaganda, entertainment, or just raw information. See this handout (Google doc) by the Center for News Literacy for more information.
One way to account for bias is to make sure you read articles from a broad spectrum of sources.
There is no such thing as "bias free" news. Reporters attempt to be as objective as possible, but bias creeps in: they're humans, not automatons.
News sources can reduce bias by posting and abiding by codes of ethics. These often include statements about:
For instance, instead of making a bland statement about objectivity, the Washington Post provides these guidelines for fairness: