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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.

Workshop Exercise: Evaluate a News Article

Evaluating news sources is one of the more contentious issues out there. People have their favorite news sources and don’t like to be told that their news source is untrustworthy.

For fact-checking, it’s helpful to draw a distinction between two activities:

  • News Gathering, where news organizations do investigative work, calling sources, researching public documents, checking and publishing facts, e.g. the 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."

Most newspaper articles are not lists of facts, which means that outfits like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times do both news gathering and news analysis in stories. What has been lost in the dismissal of the New York Times as liberal and the Wall Street Journal as conservative is that these are primarily biases of the news analysis portion of what they do. To the extent the bias exists, it’s in what they choose to cover, to whom they choose to talk, and what they imply in the way they arrange those facts they collect.

The news gathering piece is affected by this, but in many ways largely separate, and the reputation for fact checking is largely separate as well.

Credit: Caulfield, Michael A. Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers. 26: Evaluating News Sources.


Your job in this exercise is to fact-check the content, evaluate the author's background in the subject he/she writes about, and determine the journalistic standards, values, ethics, or guidelines of the source. Can you find a standard of commitment to journalistic integrity?

 

Credit: Links to articles created by Kelee Pacion, Mann Library, Cornell University.