Fake news. Alternative facts. The post-truth world. In this rapid-fire world of social media, how do you know which sources to trust and which to dismiss? First of all, ask us. Librarians have been teaching information literacy for as long as there have been libraries. The International Federation of Library Associations infographic and blog post can help you make educated decisions in evaluating news sources, (and Internet sites in general). Be wary of clickbait, those eye-catching and provocative headlines can lure you in but what you find when you click may be of no substance at all. If you aren’t familiar with an author, do a search. What else has he or she written and which publications or online sites publish his or her work? Another clue the credibility of a source is the date. And older article can, of course, be relevant, but can also be misleading. And don’t forget to check your bias.
On the Media, a WNYC program which airs on Iowa Public Radio, offers guidance on assessing the credibility of a source of fast breaking news. Anonymous sources are a red flag. If something doesn’t ring true, trust your instincts and find another credible source or two to confirm the original story or prove it wrong. The American Press Institute lists six questions to ask yourself when determining whether or not what you are reading is trustworthy. They suggest you evaluate what type of content you are reading. Is it an advertisement or opinion piece or is it a rigorously researched investigative article. Look for what sources are cited to buttress the piece – are they credible? Does the article or post tell the whole story or do find yourself asking what is missing.
If you want to read more about how Americans consume news, the Pew Research on Journalism and Media has been studying how media is consumed for years. The results of their most recent surveys are sobering. If you have questions about a news source, ask a librarian. We are ready to help you.