With all of the chaos that goes on in today’s world, it can be extremely frustrating to keep up with the news. We seem to hear contradicting facts every day, and there are endless sources of information to look at. How can we tell which information is trustworthy?
Well, the first step is realizing that any source may not be accurate. It is actually a difficult process to comb through the congested media presented to us. There are many fact-checking methods you can use to ensure that the news you read is accurate and unbiased. Here are some guidelines and tips for checking your sources when it comes to major news topics:
Unfortunately, a political news source that doesn’t sway to one side is hard to come by. A source or website with any kind of bias has a large influence on how they present information, and the type of information they are willing to present in the first place. Only reading conservative or liberal news sources will give you half of the story. Reading both is a good option to get a more neutral view, but there are further steps you can take to ensure that you’re reading unbiased political information:
- Find the sources: Every article you read should offer reliable sources for any non-opinionated information provided such as statistics, quotes, and facts. If you can’t find any citations, you can’t really trust that article. Furthermore, the sources cited should be trustworthy, such as government or scientific websites.
- Look for neutral news: Ideally, you should find a website that doesn’t identify with a political party. Even if they don’t claim to be on one side or another, do further research into their funding and background. Compare conservative and liberal sources to find a website somewhere in the middle ground. One great example of a properly sourced and unbiased political news site is Newtrals.
- When in doubt, phone a friend: If you can’t figure out the validity of a certain article, look for other articles on the same topic. If you don’t find any similar information to what you read, it may not be accurate.
- The world is your oyster: It’s always smart to read international news sources to try to get an unbiased source. Many foreign news sites offer more neutral information, especially compared to the United States. Each culture will present news in a different way.
Science and Health
Science and medically related information is one of the most important subjects when it comes to accurate information. It can have an impact on your health and wellbeing. That is why it’s so important to know that you’re reading a trustworthy source and not just any article about health and medicine.
- Find sources: Every article related to science needs to have reliable citations and references. Always check the sources and ensure that they are research studies that have been peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal.
- Read the references: Journalism is known to sensationalize scientific findings or draw conclusions inaccurately. The most common mistake is a blanket statement that misinterprets what the data really found. To actually confirm any scientific information you read, you should read, or at least scan, the references themselves. Don’t be intimidated by reading a scientific study. Focus on the abstract and the conclusion and you’ll see what the researchers actually concluded.
- Ask your doctor: If you are considering any decisions related to your health, always consult a physician and ask them any questions you have. It’s important to make sure you fully understand a health issue before you make any changes.
As stated before, reading international news can be a way to fact check. When it comes to news in the US, foreign sources can be less biased and provide an outsider’s perspective. Additionally, you should read news about any country from sources within that country, to get an inside perspective. To reduce your bias, read multiple sources on the same event or subject, and always consider the purpose of the website you’re reading.
Staying globally updated is best done by reading global news. In the US, we have a low supply of international affairs, but staying aware of the state of the world and other countries is often a refreshing change of perspective. It can open your awareness of the globe and even impact your view on events happening here.
For any type of information, it’s a good idea to go through this checklist to determine if a website is trustworthy or neutral.
- Authority: Is the source a trusted organization or authority on the topic, such as the CDC? One way to check this is by looking at the website URL. Government and educational websites end in .edu and .gov. Business or commercial website use .com or .org. If the site itself is not an authority, does the article provide references to trusted authorities or research studies? If you’re looking at a research study, has it been peer-reviewed? You can use BYU to check if a study has been reviewed by others.
- Timeliness: When was the article published? Could the information you are reading be outdated? Of course, only some types of information need to be timely. This is extremely important for any scientific research, and you should avoid relying on scientific information that is more than ten years old.
- Audience: Who is this information intended for? Does the website have a specific agenda or purpose in publishing information? Who is funding this website and its writers? Do they even disclose their funding, and if not, why might that be? If you can’t find any information on a website’s funding, look for advertisements. Ads indicate that a website is funded simply by clicks or views, which could make that information less reliable.
- Perspective: Who is presenting this information, and how might their perspective influence the article? This also ties into the purpose of the website or article. Can you find articles from a different perspective? How do they compare?
For a more thorough checklist of things to consider when investigating an online source, visit the Georgetown Library website.