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Evaluating News Sources

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." --Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Newsweek, 25 August 1986, p. 27.

Accountability I: Use News Sources with Explicit Editorial Policies & Ethical Standards

Look for journalistic standards of reporting. High-quality, investigative news sources have explicit editorial policies and follow a code of ethics or professional standards.

Does the news source you are using have an explicit Editorial Policy?
Does it follow a Code of Ethics?
Lack of an explicit and prominent editorial policy or a statement of ethical standards is a red flag indicating suspect content.

Examples of policies and standards:
BBC Editorial Guidelines
The Guardian: Our Values
New York Times Standards and Ethics
NPR [National Public Radio] Ethics Handbook

American Society of News Editors (ASNE) links to individual news sources codes of ethics and newsroom practice. Three examples:
Los Angeles Times Ethics Guidelines
Hearst Newspapers: Statement of Professional Principles
Wall Street Journal: Policies for Employeess[sic] of the News Departments of The Wall Street Journal, Newswires and MarketWatch

 

Accountable sources issue corrections for errors and inaccuracies they subsequently discover. Fake news sources are not accountable for their content. Fake news creates or uses content that is partially fabricated or contain misleading information as well as outright falsehoods.

Accountability II: Look for Qualified Article Authors

Accountable sources sign their stories and take personal responsibility for the content.

Articles should have bylines (the names of the authors). An individual or group of individuals take personal and professional responsibility for the accuracy of the information in the article. Lack of a byline is a red flag indicating suspect content.

Click on the byline if it's linked. Where does it lead?

Google the author names. Is there a LinkedIn profile? some other form of biographical information? What has the author done in the past? Does the author's background and experience qualify her or him to write on the article topic?

Credit: Center for News Literacy

Some of the content on this page is adapted from Center for News Literacy, Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Lesson 8: Source Evaluation.