Photo: Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash
With the majority of the population scrolling through their timelines on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine fact from fiction in our news. I have had my share of gullible moments in seeing shocking celebrity engagement news, or articles written about a new and magical workout routine, as I am sure many others have also fallen victim to. Through these experiences, I’ve come to realize what draws people in and what makes people say, ‘this just does not sound believable!’ These five tips can help readers try to differentiate between real and fake news:
Scan for bias- People have always been taught that neutrality is sometimes the best option. In other words, when reading what may seem like credible news or not, scan for inflammatory or “biased” language throughout the text. This means that these words or phrases stir up emotions, elicit anger, or may even cause physical actions to occur. Examples may be expressions that demean or exclude people based on age, sex, race, ethnicity, etc. If you come across an article that includes such salient words or phrases, chances are the author is biased to a certain side or has a strong opinion about the topic.
Consider the source- This tip should bring us all back to our school days. Recall when you got a research topic and needed credible websites to find the best information, but certain websites, such as Wikipedia, World News Daily Report, and National Report, were off-limits - and for good reason. They are all invalid as well as unreliable because they are subject to bias and fraud. If you question the reliability of what you’re reading, pay attention to hyperlinks or links to credible references at the bottom of the website, as professional journalists seek out primary sources.
Judge a book by its cover- Now I know what you’re thinking- “I have always been taught to never make an opinion based off first appearances!” While this is a tip that should not be forgotten, it is sometimes essential to make a first impression while checking the credibility of online news sources. Stray towards professional news sites that have logos, high-resolution images, a consistent font, and established domains such as .com or .org. When you come across a new website, BE PICKY! If it looks shady or you are the slightest bit hesitant, move on!
Corroborate- In other words, look for consistency and similarity among other professional news websites. Chances are if something important appears in the news on one platform, it will come across on another. If you are scrolling through your Twitter feed and viewing the most trending news, be sure to check trusted and professional sources to confirm the headlines before spreading fake news.
Find a trusted outlet, and be loyal- I always like to think of this tip as sticking with your regularly picked meal at a restaurant. Always choose your tried and true- it will not let you down! When you come across a news website that appears to have credible and reliable information, do not stray from it. Here is a list of established news organizations that have histories of reporting accurate information.
In a world in which technology is always improving and the ability to gather news is more versatile, it is inevitable that fake news will always be in circulation. It is essential that with the right mindset and approach to gathering information, less people will fall victim of spreading fake news. Next time you find yourself scrolling through social media or are distracted while surfing the web, try to not believe everything you read- it will certainly help with your sanity.
Hailey Foster, 19, is a rising sophomore studying journalism and media at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She loves to watch old Hollywood movies in her free time, especially Breakfast at Tiffany's, her favorite and go-to.