For students in government classes and others looking for strategies to evaluate news stories and related media, here’s the slideshow discussed during class. This slideshow combines slides from three campaign literacy lessons available from the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. Click on the slide image below to open the slideshow in PowerPoint Online.
Investigate WHO is providing the source
Who’s responsible for the source? Should you trust them? Do they have relevant credentials? What are their biases? Here are three techniques to try when you’re investigating this question.
- Check the site’s About page and search the web for associated names (e.g., article authors, company or organization names, site owners or sponsors, and board members). This can shed light on who’s responsible for the information on your screen, their credentials, and what biases might influence what you’re seeing (or what’s been omitted from what you’re seeing).
- Type the web address into a domain registry like WHOIS to reveal the name of the organization or person to whom that web site is registered. NOTE: Because site owners can pay to have WHOIS show the name of the company hosting the site rather than the owner’s information, this doesn’t always reveal much.
- Type the web address into a backlink checker like OpenLinkProfiler or Open Site Explorer to reveal a list of sites that link to the site you’re using. This can give you a sense of the site’s friends and neighbors.
Read source documents for yourself
Reading an article about a bill in Congress, an executive order, or a speech, press release, Supreme Court decision, or scientific study? Concerned the article might have misquoted or misinterpreted the source? Track down the original source and read it for yourself. For scientific studies, you’ll likely need our library databases.
- A-Z index of federal agencies (USA.gov)
- Centers for Disease Control News Room
- CIA – speeches, testimony, press releases, news stories; for FOIA-related documents, search the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room
- Congress.gov – access texts of House and Senate bills, transcripts of floor debates and committee testimony, and videos of proceedings
- Congressional Budget Office – estimates cost of legislation on behalf of Congress
- Data and statistics gathered by federal agencies – economic stats, labor stats, etc.
- Executive Orders and other documents from the White House Press Office
- FBI – testimony, speeches, press releases, news stories, videos; for FOIA-related documents, search the FBI Vault
- Federal Reserve speeches, testimony, and press releases
- Immigration info from Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice
- IRS Tax Statistics
- State Department Remarks & Releases – including travel warnings
- Supremecourt.gov – read/listen to oral arguments and access case documents
Consult fact-checking sites
- FactCheck – from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at UPENN
- OpenSecrets – focuses on campaign finance (e.g. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Energy Transfer Partners)
- Politifact – run by the Tampa Bay Times and media partners for state-specific editions like Politifact-Virginia (with the Richmond Times Dispatch)
- Snopes – debunks urban legends and checks other online content
Fact-checking sites with distinct political biases include…
- MediaMatters – progressive organization; focus on conservative news
- NewsBusters – conservative organization; focus on liberal news
Seek contrasting perspectives
- Allsides – curates articles from left, right, and center news outlets
- Google News – look for contrasting headlines
- Consider limiting by news sources from particular location
- If you have more than one Google account, consider setting up preferences for one Google News portal to emphasize liberal viewpoints and another to represent conservative viewpoints
- Research databases, including PowerSearch and AP Source, contain many publications with contrasting viewpoints
See where candidates stand on policy issues
- Ballotpedia – includes coverage of candidates in elections
- ProCon.org – includes election-related topics among the issues covered
Evaluating an image? Use more web detective tools!
When confronted with a flood of images and videos, as often happens in the wake of natural disasters and acts of violence (e.g., photos posted after Hurricane Sandy), how do journalists verify such sources? In this TED talk, Markham Nolan provides a glimpse into how journalists were using tools like Google Maps, Spokeo and Wolfram Alpha for this purpose in 2012.
Newer tools like Google’s reverse image search and similar tools can also be helpful. Click on the camera icon in Google Image Search to reveal this option:
News Source Evaluation Activity
Using the information_neighborhoods_chart as a reference point, apply the strategies we discussed to evaluate the following news videos and/or web articles about the Dakota Access Pipeline. Complete this chart: NewsStoryEvaluationChart.
Opinion Pieces (skim to note different labels/types)
- Finish Construction on Dakota Access Now – Oct. 3, 2016
- Standing Rock Sioux’s Pipeline Protest is a Fight for Humanity – Oct. 27, 2016
- The Dakota Access Pipeline Should’ve Happened 10 Years Ago – Oct. 21, 2016
- How You Can Show Your Solidarity in the Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline – Oct. 28, 2016
News Videos (news reporting? opinion journalism? neither?)
- (A) Growing Debate After Admin Halts Dakota Access Pipeline – Sep. 15, 2016
- (B) Trump Financial Ties to Dakota Pipeline (focus on first 3 min.)- Oct. 26, 2016
- (C) Over 300 Police Cracked Down on Dakota Access Pipeline Protests – Oct. 28, 2016
Web Articles (evaluate an article trio for V-I-A)
- Dakota Access Pipeline: What’s at Stake? – Oct. 28, 2016
- Regarding the Escalating Situation at Standing Rock – Oct. 27, 2016
- 141 Arrested at Dakota Access Pipeline Protest as Police Move In – Oct. 28, 2016
- Dakota Access Protesters Set Fires, Lob Molotov Cocktails, Fire Shots in Face-off with Police – Oct. 27, 2016
- Mass Arrests at Standing Rock – Oct. 27, 2016
- What to Know about the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests – Oct. 28, 2016
- Governor Uses Emergency Order to Bring Out-of-State Police to Dakota Access Pipeline Protest – Oct. 25, 2016
- Unions, Industry Respond to Dakota Access Pipeline Delay– Oct. 5, 2016
- Pipeline Company Says It Will Promptly Resume Work – Oct. 11, 2016
- Not All the Standing Rock Sioux Are Protesting the Pipeline – Oct. 30, 2016
- 5 Things You Need to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests – Oct. 27, 2016
Consider other evaluative frameworks
Other evaluative frameworks have been developed by colleges, libraries, and other organizations to help researchers evaluate the sources they encounter.
- CRAAP Test (developed by librarians at California State University-Chico) – elements are Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose
- RADAR (poster presentation by librarians at Western University about their application of a model published in 2013 by Jane Mandalios with American College of Greece) – elements are Relevance, Authority, Date, Appearance, and Reason