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Fake or Credible? Navigating the News

A guide to responsible news consumption, created and updated by Stevens librarians

BIAS CRITERIA

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.

OPEN EDITORIAL PROCESS

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:

  1. be independent,
  2. be accountable, and
  3. work hard to verify facts.

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.

ACCOUNTING FOR BIAS

One way to account for bias is to make sure you read articles from a broad spectrum of sources.

VERIFYING FACTS

MINIMIZING BIAS

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:

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Error correction
  • Attribution of sources
  • Plagiarism and credit
  • Fairness

 

For instance, instead of making a bland statement about objectivity, the Washington Post provides these guidelines for fairness:

  • No story is fair if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.
  • No story is fair if it includes essentially irrelevant information at the expense of significant facts. Fairness includes relevance.
  • No story is fair if it consciously or unconsciously misleads or even deceives the reader. Fairness includes honesty – leveling with the reader.
  • No story is fair if reporters hide their biases or emotions behind such subtly pejorative words as “refused,” “despite,” “quietly,” “admit” and “massive.” Fairness requires straightforwardness ahead of flashiness.

"FAKE NEWS" DETECTORS

Acknowledgements

Guide adapted from News Know-How by Steve Runge at Boston College, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License