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Fake News: Evaluating Current Events Coverage

Resources and strategies for evaluating current events coverage and finding reliable news.

Evaluating News Information

Evaluating news information has two phases: vertical reading and lateral reading.

Vertical Reading

Vertical reading is the first phase of news evaluation and refers to using information contained within the news story to preliminarily evaluate its quality.

The purpose of the vertical reading phase is to determine whether the news story is of high enough quality to evaluate further through lateral reading.

  Technique Quality News Fake News

Newsworthiness

News judgment based on the Seven News Values

Is significant to the general public

Is new, immediate, and current

Is related to other current events or content; is covered by other news outlets

Is needed or demanded by the public

Is original reporting based on relevant, credible sources

Adds value as information in the public interest

Is objective; or, biases are identified and managed

Is insignificant to the public

Is not new; does not address immediate or current events

Is unrelated to other topics in the public interest; is not being covered by other news outlets

Is not necessary or of interest to the public

Is unoriginal or derived from prior reporting

Adds no value in the public interest, or distracts from other important news

Is influenced by an advertiser, politician, or other private interest; is biased

News Story Type Analyze the rhetorical devices in a news story to determine its type

Hard News

  • Immediacy
  • Accuracy
  • Factual reporting in the inverted pyramid style
  • Relevance, significance, importance
  • General audience

Soft News

  • Trendiness or timelessness
  • Provocative
  • Narrative emphasis on story-telling
  • Limited impact
  • Personal, social, or cultural in nature

Click Bait

  • Sensationalist, provocative headlines
  • "Infotainment" or tabloidization of news
  • Manipulates emotions to prompt click-through
  • Clicks generate revenue
  • Content is not newsworthy
  • Content often features 'list articles'
  • Content often fails to meet the expectations created by the headline

Satire

  • Coverage of people, institutions, or systems of power
  • Criticism of foolishness, gullibility or corruption
  • Use of rhetorical devices - humor, irony, exaggeration, etc. - to conceal social criticism

Misinformation

  • Inaccurate, misleading information
  • Distributed accidentally

White Propaganda

  • Techniques to create a favorable impression of the special interest
  • Persuasion or an appeal to positive emotions (happiness, group affinity or belonging, shared achievement or sacrifice)
  • Source of information is correctly identified
  • Information is accurate but subject to bias by omission or emphasis in favor of the special interest

Black propaganda

  • Techniques to create an unfavorable impression of something for the benefit of the special interest
  • Appeal to negative emotions (fear, bigotry, hatred, resentment)
  • Source of information is concealed or intentionally misidentified
  • Information is intentionally deceptive, inaccurate, or fabricated

Gray propaganda

  • Combines attributes of white and black propaganda

Disinformation

  • Intentional distribution of misleading, inaccurate, or fabricated information
  • Information is intentionally deceptive, inaccurate, or fabricated
  • Source of information is concealed or intentionally misidentified

If you determine that you've found a quality source of hard or soft news, the second phase of evaluation is lateral reading.

Lateral Reading

Lateral reading is the technique of evaluating a news source by researching the source itself.

Lateral reading involves evaluating both the news source and the information presented.

Lateral reading includes 

reading about the same story from a variety of perspectives (for instance, reading coverage of the same topic from local, regional, national, and international newspapers) 

reading a variety of sources about a topic (for instance, looking up basic facts and background information in encyclopedias; reading story source material such as official reports, interview transcripts, regulation or other primary sources; reading other content written by the same journalist; etc.).

  Quality News Fake News
Evaluating the news source

Author:

  • Is accurately identified
  • Holds relevant credentials
  • Demonstrates relevant expertise
  • Demonstrates a professional track record of  journalistic integrity, including producing accurate, fair, and thorough reporting based on credible, relevant sources
  • Acknowledges and manages potential biases or conflicts of interest
  • Discloses relevant funding sources

Publishing outlet (ex. news site, news show, publication, etc.):

  • Is accurately identified
  • Has a posted editorial or journalistic standards policy
  • Clearly labels corrections and other content changes
  • Acknowledges and manages potential biases or conflicts of interest
  • Discloses funding sources

Author:

  • Is difficult to identify
  • Lacks relevant credentials or expertise
  • Violates or compromises journalistic ethics
  • Conceals potential biases or conflicts of interest
  • Conceals relevant funding sources

Publishing outlet:

  • Is difficult to identify
  • Lacks clear editorial or journalistic standards policy, or violates journalistic ethics
  • Conceals potential biases or conflicts of interest
  • Conceals relevant funding sources
Evaluating the information presented

Information is

  • obtained from identified, independent, authoritative sources
  • obtained from multiple sources
  • current
  • fact-checked
  • verifiable elsewhere.

Information is

  • obtained from unidentified sources, sources lacking expertise or experience, or sources who are biased or present a conflict of interest
  • obtained from one or few sources, and presents a limited range of views on the topic
  • outdated
  • inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated
  • not verifiable elsewhere.