It’s tough to know who to trust on the Internet. In a world with money-driven editorial rooms and opportunists trying to keep up with the latest trends, you have to recognize reliable from misleading sources. The distinction rarely is easy. But if you remember a few simple rules, you can sift through deceit and ensure your news source is reputable.
1. Who is your news source?
Who is funding the site you’re reading? More importantly, does that overarching company or reporter hold biases against the topic? Make sure the source is transparent and allows you to find the organization behind the information.
2. What experience do they have?
Is this an experienced journalist who has received accolades from their work? Is this a new journalist trying to make a splash? There’s always a way to become a trusted source, but those means may not be ethical. It’s a balance.
3. What kind of article is it?
Not every article is meant to be ingested as a fact. Many times, people hear about a topic and express their opinion. Other times, people want to raise controversy around facts. Some articles are meant to inform you, but other articles aim to change your mind.
4. How do they cite their sources?
Anyone can say they got their information from an anonymous source. It fosters more trust in the reader when a journalist links their references directly to where they learned the information.
5. Why did they choose this method?
Did the author survey people to collect information? Did they conduct an extensive national survey? Did they include sources from people other than themselves? All of these data-collecting methods can accidentally or purposefully manipulate data.
6. Are they familiar with the topic?
Not every journalist will be 100% passionate about every story that crosses their desk. Sometimes they have a deep connection with a topic; others may not interest them. You can see previous work from the author to gauge their familiarity with the story.
7. Do they include diverse points of view?
No one knows everything about anything. We all come from different backgrounds, and providing diverse perspectives is vital to make sure every idea is represented.
8. Is there an option for feedback?
Conversations are a two-way street. If journalists put their opinions out there, they are surely expecting a response from their audience. Those who do not take criticism will never grow.
So be wary of who and what you are reading. The Trust Project is a useful resource for learning how to dig through misinformation and find reliable sources. This site provides eight “trust indicators” that can help you sift through the mess and find the news.