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News

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Evaluating News Sources

Evaluating News Sources

When evaluating newspaper articles, it's critical to avoid binary distinctions such as "liberal" or "conservative." Mike Caulfield notes that such binaries are related to news analysis (2017). Bias is evident in what kind of news gets covered, which experts are quoted, and how information is arranged (Caulfield, 2017). 

Caulfield draws these distinctions between news gathering and news analysis; these distinctions are helpful in understanding how readers construe bias in news sources:

  • News gathering, where news organizations do investigative work–calling sources, researching public documents, and checking and publishing facts (e.g. getting the facts of Bernie Sanders involvement in the passage of several bills)
  • News analysis, which takes those facts and strings them into a larger narrative, such as “Senator Sanders an effective legislator behind the scenes” or “Senator Sanders largely ineffective Senator behind the scenes.”

It's important to understand that bias exists in all information and that we should recognize it when we see it. However, identifying bias is different than verifying truth in claims.

 


Determining Expertise

From the Real Experts by Rita Morais Used under (CC BY-NC 2.0); image resized from original

Judging content based on the author's expertise is not a clear cut task and sometimes you have to do some extra digging to find a person's qualifications. Here are some tips to do that:

  • Look for the author's credentials including education, experience, occupation, and position to help you determine how much the author knows about their subject.
  • Search a library database or Google to identify other writings by the author. 
  • Search for your author in Google Scholar to see if others have cited works by your author in their own writings.
  • Sometimes an author’s participation in a conference or other professional activity can be identified in the search results.
  • If available, consult an “About” page on the Web site (if there is one) to read the author’s self‐description. Attempt to verify some of the facts.
  • If the author is affiliated with an academic institution, business, or organization, check the directory on the associated Web site to confirm the author’s status or check their credentials (usually listed in-depth on a curriculum vita).

Source: University Libraries at University of Albany


Different types of bias                 

  • Bias is a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others, which often results in treating some people unfairly.
  • Explicit bias refers to attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) that we consciously or deliberately hold and express about a person or group. 
  • Implicit bias includes attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) about other people, ideas, issues, or institutions that occur outside of our conscious awareness and control, which affect our opinions and behavior. 
  • Confirmation bias, or the selective collection of evidence, is our subconscious tendency to seek and interpret information and other evidence in ways that affirm our existing beliefs, ideas, expectations, and/or hypotheses. 

(Source: Cornell University Library)

 

 

Linked from: Disinformation and Propaganda --Impact on the Functioning of the Rule of Law in the EU and its Member States


'Fake news' is too simplistic of a term to adequately convey the extent of what Claire Wardle refers to as 'information disorders' (2019). Genuine information can be "used out of context and weaponised by people who know that falsehoods based on a kernel of truth are more likely to be believed and shared. And most of this can’t be described as ‘news’. It’s good old-fashioned rumours, it’s memes, it’s manipulated videos and hyper-targeted ‘dark ads’ and old photos re-shared as new" (Wardle 2019).

Content such as "propaganda, lies, conspiracies, rumours, hoaxes, hyperpartisan content, falsehoods or manipulated media" is part of three distinct categories: disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation, all of which constitute information disorder (2019).

Source: Information Disorder: 'The techniques we saw in 2016 have evolved' by Claire Wardle (October 21, 2019)

 

Person looking at a tablet in shockFact checking is how researchers account for truth and accuracy of their sources. The resources below will aid you in determining whether your information is legitimate or not. As a student-scholar, it is also important to examine even the fact-checking sources with a critical eye.

 
 
 
 
Misinformation on the Web by Visuals; illustration by Carlos PX. Used under (CC BY-NC 2.0); image resized from original