The way people consume content has been completely revolutionised in the last few years, thanks to the advent of the digital age and popularization of social media. While this has been incredibly beneficial and has vastly increased the accessibility of news, it has also had major drawbacks when it comes to the quality and credibility of the information that is published.
Every single day we are bombarded with information on a variety of topics, much of which is extremely biased or downright false. So how can we, in such times of slander and misinformation, make sure to be responsible readers who seek for legitimate, factual news?
The answer to this question leads us to the techniques each of us can employ to ensure that we exercise responsibility and consciousness when reading news online. The following are five ways on how to recognise and avoid the toxicity of “fake news”.
#1 – Source
Where does the article come from?
Is this source infamous for tabloid and misguided information?
You can tell a whole lot about a piece by knowing where it’s been published from. Chances are, if the source of the article is notorious for spreading false information, the article itself won’t be any better. If the source is known for pushing a specific agenda, the article itself will probably push those same beliefs. So go ahead and check the source, it will help you determine a lot about the piece before even reading it.
#2 – Author
Is the author educated on the subject at hand?
Are they trying to push a narrative or agenda?
There’s a difference between opinion and informative pieces. Opinion pieces are bound to be biased because the author is presenting their perspective on the subject at hand, but it should still have a compelling argument. When it comes to informative pieces, however, the author should not be imposing their personal beliefs into the article. It’s their job is to present the facts accurately so the audience can draw conclusions for themselves. Looking up the author will allow you to see what other types of articles they have written, and to ensure that they are well informed on what they write about.
#3 – Bias
Is this article clearly partial or prejudiced on the subject at hand?
Are your own biases clouding your judgement?
Once reading the article, look at it critically and try to identify the bias it may present. Reading other articles by different sources might be helpful to make a conclusion about its prejudice. If it obviously favours one side of the argument, or only tells part of the story and excludes certain facts, it shows lack of integrity and bias (unless they regularly update it). Also, think about the possibility that your own judgement may be clouded, because often times we tend to disregard information as inaccurate if it conflicts with out personal views.
#4 – Evidence
What is the information they reference?
Are those sources trustworthy or not?
Good articles point to other sources to support the information they present, great articles make sure that those sources are accurate and trustworthy. If any piece, whether opinion based or not, can’t support the information they claim with solid evidence, chances are the authors haven’t done their research. Look at original sources and ensure that they are credible. In addition to this, articles with dead links or really obscure sources are questionable and best avoided.
#5 – Reputability
Is the publisher trustworthy and do they hold ethics up to par?
Do they try to inform the public or spread misinformation?
Check the reputability of all its components: authors, sources, publishers, etc. This part includes how they handle “hot topic” news and sensible matters. Credible news articles are respectful and accurate about sensitive issues and get the facts right before publishing information. Questionable news articles jump to conclusions and don’t bother making sure they get the full picture before spreading misinformation. Credible writing is careful and accurate, sloppy writing focuses on fast news and getting the biggest reactions.
You may have noticed the starting letter of each word put together spells “SABER”, so an easy way to remember these steps is by learning the acronym they make. All you have to do is make a simple connection, the spanish word “saber” means “to know” in English, and this acronym will help you know the signs on how to look out for credible information. So remember about SABER next time you read news on current events.
In a time where fake news spreads across the internet faster than it can me disproved, we must be the ones to make a conscious choice on the information we consume and – even more importantly – believe. We must be the ones to think for ourselves and not feed into the culture of false narratives and bandwagon thinking which has been so deeply ingrained into every aspect of our lives on the media.