One of the benefits of editing a blog with weekly postings is that the work comes with some time for sorting and evaluating other posts, and for weighing the strengths and utility of those posts in curating resources for your own readers. During the past week, I’ve been mulling and culling sources shared by educators and reporters concerned about how to engage students in navigating news and social media sources with tools for accessing accuracy and evaluating validity. I’ve selected three to share in this post:
All Things Tech writer Wynne Davis provides an overview of the topic in “Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts”, which is accessible as a web page, or a Google document. Davis’ report provides links to key researchers in this area, and distills the following clear guidelines – with explanatory text – that can be easily drawn into a handout to be shared with students charged with finding and assessing sources:
- Pay attention to the domain and URL
- Read the “About Us” section
- Look at the quotes in a story
- Look at who said them
- Check the comments
- Reverse image search
Analysing Websites: An OpenSource Project
The on-going project of Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College, provides a number of tools/resources useful to teachers and learners who are navigating publications and press sites as part of their course work. Zimdars’ resource – “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources” – opens with tips for analysing the veracity of new sites; more important, the middle section of this document outlines the multiple steps her OpenSources project in analysing sites, and in closing the document sets out, via a succinctly labeled and clearly tabled set up, an accounting of the site that have been analysed.
Doing the Work of Critically Evaluating Information
As the creator, Lindsay Matts-Benson from the University Libraries notes::
Part of the problem with trying to find accurate news on social media is that we are often trapped in a filter bubble of information – meaning that we only read, like, and share things that align with our own belief system. It is important to challenge those beliefs and be more critical of the media we consume and share. Information and media literacy is not just a problem of or a cure for the right or left. It is an essential skill for all of us no matter where we lie on the political spectrum.
The document – which is set up for ease in sharing with students in print and digital formats – offers six overarching tips, with links to specific examples and resources in the digital version. The companion video focusing on assessing sources of information may also be of interest to teachers. What follows is a recap of the tips and their linked talking points:
Be critical of images
- Images are often used in the wrong context to tell a story.
- Look for “photoshopped” errors, blurriness, pixelation etc.
- Use Google Reverse Image Search to search for the image source.
- Search for images of same event from multiple outlets to confirm truthfulness.
- Screenshots are easily faked.
Investigate the URL/site
- It is easy to clone a website and get a similar-enough URL to create a fake site.
- .gov sites aren’t without bias. but do provide a record of the happenings of the government – in theory.
- Look for bias in the site
- When in doubt, Google it.
Read beyond the headline
- Look at multiple headings on the same issue from different sources.
- Look to see who the article is citing.
- Who is the news source or social media quoting or retweeting?
Verify the author
- Most journalists want to claim their writing. If you can’t find an author, be suspicious.
- View the profile of the tweeter/sharer in question.
- Being verified on social media doesn’t mean that author is unbiased.
Track down original source
- Author, quotes, and citations should give you an idea where to find the original source of the information.
- Search for quotations in Google to check for accuracy.
Watch out for new technologies
- New technologies will make it harder to identify the real from the fake.
All sources noted in this post have been gathered
into an Evaluating News Sources folder that is downloadable via Google Drive.