If you’re one of the millions of people who secured their own little piece of the social media community, then you’ve probably come across more than one biased article or video spinning stories to fit their agenda rather than sticking to the facts. Heck, many of our most popular TV news networks do the same! And when many of us get the majority (if not all) of our news from these media sources, this can spell travesty when it comes to the truth. Which is why fact checking is so, so, so important.
Fact checking isn’t always easy. But if you want to learn the truth about anything in today’s world, it’s incredibly important.
With the virality of photo-shopped photos, chain letter emails, edited videos, satire-saturated sites passing as real news, and a President who labels some of those who oppose him as a “liar” or as reporting “fake news,” fact checking has never been more important.
Truth vs. “Fake News”
But how do you do it? How do you decipher between what’s true and what’s false?
Aside from being an actual witness to the event, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is this a source I recognize and trust? Have they reported on truthful or less-than-truthful topics before? If they have reported something dishonest, were they quick to retract and correct the statement(s)?
- Who might benefit or be harmed by the message in this piece of news?
- Has anyone fact checked this story already? And if so, who did the fact checking? Were they a reputable source? Are other trustworthy news sources reporting on the story?
- Is the article or post rampant with emotional declarations or obvious bias? Is it labeled as an opinion piece? Does it aim to incite an extreme emotional response from its readers?
- Does the article link to prime resources? And do those sources match what the story says?
- Check the site’s “About” section – do they seem credible? Who supports or is associated with the site?
- Look for signs of low quality such as glaring grammatical errors, extreme claims with no sources, unrelated dramatic images, or a site overwhelmed with crazy ads.
If the source of the story fails when it comes to any of these questions, and/or you repeatedly find they report on less-than-honest claims – or even worse, refuse to correct their inaccuracies…
Then do yourself a favor: stop listening to them.
Teaching Kids to Research
Not only is it important for us to learn to fact check ourselves, but we have to teach our children how to, as well! It’s simply yet another way to help develop them into productive members of society.
Lucky for some kids, their schools and teachers are taking advantage of a new program by the News Literacy Project. It’s called the Checkology Virtual Classroom, and it teaches students to navigate through and interpret information in order to make more informed decisions (source). They’re given information on viral stories in the form of ads, propaganda, and facts, and are required to research until they figure out what is true and what is false.
“The No. 1 question that I love asking [students] is, ‘Where do you get your news?’ ” says Elis Estrada, the [News Literacy Project] group’s Washington, D.C., program manager. “And the majority of them say, ‘What is news?’ They don’t even know what it is. The fact that we have to start there is really telling.”
Hopefully this movement will spread like wildfire so that all of our children can benefit! Meanwhile, we can take things into our own hands by giving our kids the tools they need to better understand an increasingly complex world.
Other Ways to Spot False Claims
& Check for Bias
It’s understandable if you’re reluctant to take the time to research the truth. We all keep pretty busy these days. So if you want a quicker, easier way to fact check, try these websites out:
(If you’re skeptical about Snopes being on the list because you have heard they’re totally biased, check out this article Snopes is a Least Biased Source Despite What you May have Read)
Pro tip: If you’re wondering whether a news source leans left, right, or is the least biased, check out this awesome site MediaBiasFactCheck.com – you can search for any news outlet and discover if they’re biased and why they’re reported that way.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll believe every single piece they report. No matter where you get your news from, if you’re going to believe a story, it’s best to research it first – especially before you start spreading it around on social media or through email forwards!
Until next time,