How Can You Tell Which News to Trust?

Madalena Larkins 

The Charter Opinions

12/15/20

We are living in an increasingly polarized environment, and accessing news in its most impartial state is more important than ever. So how can you tell what news to trust? 

A lot of media outlets and news organizations claim their reporting to be fair and objective, but that’s hard to guarantee, as news is produced by reporters, who are humans, and humans are biased. So while a reader is unlikely to find a news source that’s completely free from bias, some are less partisan than others, and good journalists always endeavor to put personal beliefs and feelings aside, and be mindful of their own biases.  

AllSides, an independent fact checking website, ranks news outlets on a spectrum based on their political predispositions: Left, Left lean, Center, Right lean, or Right. Some of those in the Center category include: The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, NPR News, and USA Today. Though these outlets still have biases, they’ll offer a more balanced perspective than certain others readers may come across. 

Reading news from sources across the political spectrum is also beneficial, as consuming news from only one side often leads to confirmation bias, polarization, and division, which are already too prevalent in our current political climate. 

When reading a news article and trying to determine its credibility, it’s important to evaluate both the publisher and the article itself. When doing so, here are some questions to keep in mind: 

  • Are other outlets reporting the same thing? Sometimes one news organization will break a story before others do, but if it’s factual, other news outlets will publish similar stories shortly after. 
  • Does the article make rash or overly general claims without citing a source? This is usually a red flag. Even if they do have a source, are they transparent about it? Is their source’s information up to date? If not, that’s also a bad sign. It’s also helpful to utilize fact checking organizations, like Factcheck.org, which is nonprofit and nonpartisan, to help you separate fact from fiction. 
  • Does the article simply present facts or is it trying to elicit an emotional response? If the latter is true, that’s definitely a red flag. 
  • Does the story deliver on the headline and/or image? If not, it’s likely just clickbait; the website is probably just trying to show more ads, not provide factual information. 
  • Is the information up to date, if applicable? If it’s a story that was published in March, 2020, about the symptoms of covid-19, the reader probably won’t get an accurate picture, since medical professionals didn’t know very much about the virus at that time.  

It’s extremely important to pay attention to the information one is consuming, and doing so helps to create a better environment for civil discourse, and in turn, a healthier democracy. 

Sources:

“Confirmation bias.” Dictionary.com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/confirmation-bias  Accessed 13 Dec. 2020. 

“Fake News, Propaganda, and Misinformation: Learning to Critically Evaluate Media Sources.” Cornell University Library. https://guides.library.cornell.edu/evaluate_news/recognizing. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.

FactCheck.org. The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. https://www.factcheck.org/ Accessed 13 Dec. 2020. 

“How to Evaluate Information Sources: Identify Bias.” New Jersey Institute of Technology. https://researchguides.njit.edu/evaluate/bia. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.

“Media Bias Ratings.” AllSides. 2020. https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-ratings Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.