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Evaluating News: "Fake News" and Beyond

A guide to evaluating news for credibility

Fake News

Image of a National Enquirer cover from May 19, 1998Fake news is not a new phenomenon, but the 2016 elections have brought it to the forefront of our attention. The term "fake news," has become a catch-all for all different kinds of news that promote false information, intentionally mislead readers, manipulate our emotions, and provide affirmation to our existing viewpoints and biases.

To complicate things further, it's also becoming more and more common for many people to label news that disagrees with their own viewpoints as fake, without further investigating or verifying the information being presented. So, sometimes you might hear that a news article is fake or that a news source is fake, even when it's pretty reliable. When in doubt, it''s always good to check for yourself.

 

 

Here are some different kinds of fake news:

  • Fake News or Hoax News - Stories that promote false information. While they may be loosely influenced by facts, these stories can't be verified. These stories often rely on language designed to get an emotional response (like outrage) from readers.
  • Clickbait - Outrageous headlines and stories designed to get readers to click open links to a particular webpage. These often try to manipulate emotions or elicit surprise. You've seen a lot of this already - it often involves politics or celebrities.
  • Hyper-partisan or Heavily Biased News - Stories that present facts, often carefully selected, through a biased perspective. There are different levels of bias, but credible reporters and news sites attempt to present facts with objectivity. 
  • News Parody/Satire - Stories that parody current events and reporting. While they often use false headlines, they are created to poke fun at current events or people, not to convince readers that the information is true.

 

More on the News & Fake News Universe

 

Another good visualization of the news universe is this graphic by Vanessa Otero, which focuses on where news sources fall on the current political spectrum.

image of News Quality Chart, by Vanessa Otero, availalbe as PDF via the linked image

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