A 5-Step Process to Determine Whether a News Article is Trustworthy
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans consider a range of variables when determining whether or not a news article is trustworthy. Still, their views differ by party affiliation, demographic traits, and news consumption habits. Overall, a large majority of adults in the United States believe it is at least somewhat important to consider each of the five surveyed factors when determining whether a news story is true or not: the news company that publishes it (88%); the sources cited in it (86%); their gut instincts about it (77%); the person, if any, who shared it with them (68 percent); and the specific journalist who reported it (66%). Only 24% of adults believe it is at least somewhat significant to examine a sixth aspect in the survey: how many shares, comments, or likes the story gets on social media.
However, fewer Americans consider each of these factors to be highly significant. Fewer people mention their gut instinct about the article (30%), the journalist who reports it (24%), the person who shares it with them (23%), or the social media interaction it has garnered (6%).
Blind trust in mainstream media is soaring, and as a result of this horrid consumption, many Americans are being duped. It is naïve to believe anything at face value in these days of media monopolization and mass manipulation. The real issue occurs when you consider that the only window you have to gaze at the world is through the media. Most of the news and articles you read are impossible to verify. Turning entirely cynical or into a conspiracy theorist isn't a viable option.
This is where skeptical validation comes in. You can learn what it means and how to practice it yourself through this article. Furthermore, let's look at some of the big news channels in the US and what part they play (if any) in contributing to propagandist efforts through lies and deception.
The "News" Organizations That Dupe You
It should be no secret that viewers of Fox News are constantly bombarded with lies, misstatements, and half-truths as the network's hosts, guests, and on-air personalities construct a web of misinformation that permeates practically every element of the outlet's ostensible "news" activities.
During the first four months of 2022, Media Matters produced a list of lies and false statements repeated and retold every weekday during Fox's alleged "straight news" programming. The analysis includes excerpts from every weekday between January and April of this year during what the network refers to as "straight news" programming — excluding the network's opinion-based late afternoon and primetime shows.
Tucker Carlson, the host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," which aired exclusively on Fox News, used the platform to spew out racist ideologies following ex-President Donald Trump's steps. A tactic that made Trump very happy and advocated for the news channel. That alone should tell you how inaccurate and damaging the content was.
Mainstream, reality-based journalists have been far too generous to Fox over the years, partly because the network employed some of them and partly to maintain the pretense of political impartiality. But it's past time to state unequivocally that Fox is not news. Fox "News" is a right-wing propaganda enterprise disguised as a television network. It does not comply with journalism's professional standards. And every time it is permitted to function under the pretense of "news," it provides it with more credibility than it deserves as it erodes our democracy. The traditional justifications – that Fox employs some "genuine" journalists, that taking a stand against Fox would be politically divisive, that journalists should be "at work, not at war" - are no longer valid.
On June 22, 2017, CNN reported that Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci was linked with the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is under investigation by the Senate. He wasn't one of them. CNN retracted the story, and the three reporters who published it were fired from the network. CNN has taken no action against the reporters involved in the new correction, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, according to a CNN spokesperson: "There will be no disciplinary action," the spokeswoman added, "since every procedure set in place as part of the editorial process was followed." "At CNN, people aren't dismissed for making mistakes. When they don't follow editing procedures, they're sacked."
Five megacorporations now control the majority of what we see and read. The smallest number of media firms is now reaching the highest number of people in American history. The most vital critical commentary you can find is in the student newspaper at Vassar, not in the mainstream media. That should give you an idea of the predicament we're in. It also leaves us with a fundamental question: Who is in charge of the businesses that govern our media?
A helpful index was just compiled—not by the mainstream media but by Harvard researchers interested in the future of media. When you scan the list, you can see two names repeatedly: Vanguard Group and BlackRock Fund Advisors. They are two of the Big Three asset management businesses for passive funds (all industry is clustering). State Street, the third, is owned by BlackRock. Vanguard is the company's largest stakeholder. For context, BlackRock and Vanguard own the following:
- 18% of Fox
- CBS, and hence Sixty Minutes, account for sixteen percent of the total.
- Comcast, which owns NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, and the Sky media group, controls 13% of the company.
- CNN owns 12% of the company.
- Disney, which owns ABC and FiveThirtyEight, owns 12% of the company.
- Between 10% and 14% of Gannett, which owns over 250 Gannett daily newspapers and USA Today.
- 10% of Sinclair local television news, which controls 72% of local television in the United States.
- A significant portion of Graham Media Group, which owns Slate and Foreign Policy, for an undisclosed sum.
What caused this to happen? The most excellent explanations are found in academic papers, not on Fox, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, USA Today, or Sixty Minutes. The Obama administration chose BlackRock to clean up after the 2008 financial disaster, purchasing toxic assets that the Fed was not legally entitled to buy. BlackRock executives recommended the economic reset that took effect in March 2020, when the central bank relinquished its historic independence and decided to merge monetary and fiscal policy. BlackRock had recommended this in 2019, but COVID provided the ideal scenario: an emergency for which the central bank might select an "independent expert" to avoid a fiscal crisis. BlackRock appointed the impartial expert. Coincidence? Not likely.
Does a reporter in the field care about BlackRock's opinion? I seriously doubt it. However, BlackRock may impact a publisher or owner, who in turn may have an impact on an editor or newsroom director. It isn't easy to discern where the influence came from when specific facts are headlined, and others aren't. We live in an oligarchy-ruled world, and it would be naive to believe that the media will be untouched.
Know Your News Sources
Mainline American news organizations—follow the tradition of reporting the news as objectively as possible. That isn't to say that their reports are completely objective, yet, they are more objective than non-mainstream sources. As a result, mainstream news sources are more trustworthy than alternative news sources. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, and The Los Angeles Times are examples of major American news organizations: ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, PBS News, and NPR News.
Non-mainstream news Opinions—are frequently varied in American news outlets. One way they frequently demonstrate bias is by omitting important information. MSNBC, Fox News, Gawker, and Reddit are examples of non-mainstream American news outlets.
Press Services—These services, such as Reuters or the Associated Press (AP), provide a lot of news to news outlets (print, broadcast, and internet), making it redundant for individual outlets to send their reporters everywhere. Because services are so widely utilized, you may need to check many news sources to gain a different perspective on an event or issue.
News aggregators—Rather than having their reporters, aggregators collect and broadcast the news reported by others. Some sources aggregate news from various sources and present it in a single location where users may search for and browse multiple stories. You can browse stories or conduct a subject search. Aggregators usually have current news but not back issues. Examples include Google News and Yahoo News.
Social Media—Most of the news organizations listed above participate on Twitter and Facebook. It's standard practice in this forum for very condensed announcements to direct you back to the news outlet's website for more information. However, now that their lawyers have testified to the US Congress that more than 100 million users may have seen content created by Russian operatives on the tech companies' platforms leading up to the 2016 US presidential election, the credibility of tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google with news is seriously questioned.
Evaluating News Sources
Currency.Relevance.Authority.Accuracy.Purpose. These are principles on which you should be asking your questions.
Currency: Is this an up-to-date article? Is the content or context affected by the date? Some social media stories are previous pieces that may or may not be relevant to current events but do not contain current or accurate information. If the article is old, the claims may no longer be valid or may have been disproven.
Relevance: Is the content of the article relevant? Is it beneficial? Does it meet your information requirements? While some articles may appear on a current topic, you must go beyond the headline to evaluate whether the content is relevant to your needs. Keep an eye out for clickbait.
Authority: Who is the author's authority? Is there any evidence that the author has produced additional articles on the same or comparable topics? Have they proven their knowledge and experience? What is the source of this information? Is there an agenda or a bias in it? Well-known does not always imply authority, and authority judgments and interpretations might be prejudiced and leave out important voices. Therefore you must conduct your study.
Accuracy: Can numerous sources verify the content's accuracy? Is it accurate? Are you aware of and comprehend the biases in sources? Be wary of articles that only exist in one place and that you can't verify. What is the story's source? This is especially essential for photographs that are widely shared on social media.
Purpose: Is this piece intended to elicit an emotional response? The goal of a reliable news source is to keep you informed. While an emotional reaction to certain information is natural, false news items are frequently created to incite wrath, outrage, fear, happiness, excitement, or confirmation of one's own opinions.
How You Can Fact-Check Effectively
Who can you trust if you can't trust the government, the news, or social media? You can put your faith in yourself and work to receive the relevant news, not simply the available news. You can accomplish so by using skeptical validation. Skeptical validation is validating assertions when confronted with the material you haven't seen before. We've collected a list of ways you can use your skeptical energy to protect yourself from misleading information, assertions, and outright lies.
Develop a Critical Thinking Approach
One of the critical reasons false news is such a big deal is that it's often plausible, making it not difficult to fall for it. Many pieces of false news are created to elicit "shock value," or a solid instinctual response such as fear or wrath. As a result, you must keep your emotions under check when reading such novels. Instead, think rationally and critically about what you see and hear. Consider the following questions: "Why was this story written in the first place? Is it to persuade me of a particular point of view? Is it attempting to sell me something? Is it attempting to get me to visit another website? Is it possible that I'm being triggered?"
Examine the Source
Do some research if you come across news from a source you've never heard of before. Make sure the internet page you're reading has a valid web address. Spelling mistakes in firm names or strange-sounding extensions like ".infonet" and ".offer," instead of ".com" or ".co.uk," could indicate a suspect source. Consider the publisher's reputation and professional experience in the field, whether or not you are familiar with them. Is their knowledge of the subject well-known? Or do they have a propensity towards exaggeration?
Be wary that those spreading fake news and "alternative facts" may produce web pages, newspaper mockups, or "doctored" photos that appear authoritative but are not. If you come across a questionable post that appears to be from the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, examine the WHO's website to make sure it's genuine.
Remember that just because you got the story from your best buddy doesn't mean it has any extra weight — they probably didn't go through these stages before passing it on!
Check Out Who Else Is Covering the Story
Is anyone else interested in the story? What are the opinions of other sources on the subject? Avoid jumping to the conclusion that all MSM content is phony. Following every rumor or conspiracy idea might be just as dangerous. Professional global news organizations like Reuters, CNN, and the BBC have strict editorial criteria and vast networks of highly educated reporters, so they're a terrific place to start. However, no one is entirely objective, and everyone can make a mistake, so keep looking.
Investigate the Evidence
A reputable news report will feature numerous facts, such as expert quotes, survey data, and government statistics. Or eyewitness descriptions from the scene that is precise, consistent, and confirmed. If any of these are missing, be sure to inquire! Is the evidence conclusive that something happened? Or have facts been cherry-picked or "twisted" to support a specific point of view?
Don't Take Images at Face Value.
Thanks to modern editing software, people can now quickly generate faked photos that appear authentic. According to studies, just half of us can determine whether photographs are phony. There are, however, some warning indications to be aware of—for example, strange shadows on the image or jagged edges around a shape. Images can also be 100% accurate but be misused. Photos showing rubbish on a beach, for example, could be from a different location or from ten years ago, not from the purported occurrence. You may investigate where an image came from and whether it has been edited using Google Reverse Image Search tools.
Make Sure it "Sounds Right."
Last but not least, exercise your common sense! Keep in mind that fake news exists to "feed" your prejudices, hopes, and anxieties. It's doubtful, for example, that your favorite designer company will give out a million free garments to customers who visit its stores. Likewise, simply because
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