There is a new catchphrase that has become the lexicon of the President of the United States, as well as many of the people we interact with on a daily basis.
“That’s fake news.”
Although it is true the Internet has dramatically increased the number of biased sources of information, there are still news sources that stick to the basics of reporting.
- Conduct fact checks
- Verify sources
- Present facts
- Provide resources
Let’s start with online sources, before we review other attributes of credible news.
Online Sources for News
We access four primary types of news sources.
A domain that ends in .gov or .mil typically is a dependable source of information. Nonetheless, you should stay alert for sites that use .gov or .mil for political reasons.
As the most common type of domain, .com sites provide helpful information about specific companies. For example, you can learn how much Walmart grossed in 2019 by accessing the company website.
Domains ending in .edu present data gleaned from research studies, which can offer you an objective source of information. You should check for credibility and more important, authority.
This is when we get into the gray area of news credibility. Domains that end in .org can be biased, as well as promote an agenda that you could call “bought and paid for.”
What about News Sources in Print and on Television?
Bias in the media has become a major problem for a large number of print publications and worldwide news programs. The big three news channels on television-FOX, CNN, and MSNBC- present one side of most issues or worse, ignore some news stories all together. Even the nightly news shows appear to lean towards presenting biased-based news. There remains plenty of objective news outlets online and on the small screen. It is up to you to vet each news source for unbiased information. News outlets that present multiple sides to issues tend to be much more objective.
In other words, expand your sources for news outside conventional mainstream media options.
Characteristics of Credible News Sources
How should you define what is considered credible news sources? Well, it entails much more than reciting the opinions of a commentator on one of the big three news channels.
Handle with Care
We frequently look at the outcome of the process for presenting news when we should be examining the process itself. Accurate and reliable news sources implement news gathering steps that ensure accuracy, as well as offer the opportunity to check errors. Triple checking data and interview responses is one way to foster a strong process for collecting and disseminating accurate news.
Level of Expertise
Otherwise referred to as professional credentials, expertise is essential when deciding whether to trust a news source. Perhaps no other event in our nation’s history has begged for professional expertise more than the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Experts in a certain field can boost the credibility of the news presented by any outlet.
Transparency in Separating News and Opinion
The problem with the big three television news channels is that each one often presents opinions that are masked as news. Credible news sources let readers and viewers know when the opinion wagon has pulled into town. In fact, newspapers used to print a large disclaimer above a commentary that read “The following commentary is the opinion of the writer, and it does not reflect the position taken by this publication.”
Newtrals.com is a news source that sticks strictly to facts, leaving out opinion or insights, with sources referenced.
Professional reporting of the news is just that: a report explaining to readers or viewers about the details of a recent event. The goal is to inform, not promote a specific political agenda. Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened at FOX, CNN, and MSNBC. Be wary of a reporter who injects his or her two cents into covering an event.
How to Check Facts
Factual and upfront news sources publish information that is backed up by facts. From crime statistics released by the FBI to data made available concerning a health study, you should be able to confirm the legitimacy of what a news outlet reports. Television news shows that have credibility present interviews from people that argue all sides of an issue. Well-researched news articles should include quotes from experts in the field, as well as footnotes that take readers to the resources the reporter used to acquire information. Non-fiction books that include well-researched information devote an entire section at the back of the book to the resources used to write the book.
The Power of Online Research
One of the great things about Internet research is that the digital footnote is a link that takes you to the resource used to gain information. You can check the credibility of a news outlet by determining the credibility and authority of a news resource. A broken link is nothing more than broken trust. Online links can take you to credible resources such as the National Archives and Records Administration, or it can take you to a YouTube video interview with a renowned medical researcher.
How to Flush Out Bias
The media has morphed into an institution that establishes much of social, cultural, and political discourse that occurs in our society. This means it is up to you to flush out bias by following a few tips.
- Establish if there is appoint of view
- The people influence by an issue must have a voice on the issue
- Can you detect double standards?
- Are there stereotypes used?
- Does the reporter present assumptions that go unchallenged?
- Does the reporter use loaded language?
Above all, does the story match the headline? In the era of click bait news stories, this is the most important way to flush out bias in a news story. Credible news outlets never engage in click bait news reporting tactics.