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News Know-How

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Pause Before You Click

Do you pause before you share? Sharpen your skills for reading news critically: account for your own biases, and identify poorly supported claims, weak evidence, and bad sources. In other words, avoid "fake news" and less obvious forms of misinformation.

News Where we Encounter it: Social Media

Which Article Would You Share?
The one on the left.: 27 votes (29.03%)
The one on the right.: 4 votes (4.3%)
Neither: Not interested: 4 votes (4.3%)
Neither: I'd want to check them further before I shared: 58 votes (62.37%)
Total Votes: 93
facebook post of a news article. Photo of cars pointing in haphazard directions on a freeway. Headline: "Earthquakes: Reckoning With 'The Big One' in California--and It Just Got Bigger. Source: WSJ.com Facebook post of news article, with image of map of 'ring of fire' showing earthquakes. Headline: "Enormous Earthquakes Hit Both Sides of the Pacific And Experts Warn The San Andreas Could 'Unzip All At Once.'" Source: Redflagnews.com

Pause before you click

How news stories enter our lives has changed radically, but we're still depending on assumptions about how print and TV news filtered truth from fiction. IOW, we're assuming other people (or search tools) are filtering for credibility. THEY AREN'T.

The emotional urge to share news you encounter on social media often overpowers the rational mind. It's so powerful, that it boosted fake news shares above real news in the weeks leading up to the Fall 2016 US elections.

Before you click and share, pause! Evaluate the item with these criteria to determine whether an article is worth sharing:

Headlines: Headlines accurately represent the substance of articles, with minimally emotional language (recognizing that their purpose is as much marketing as informational).
Publication Credibility: The article is on a site published by an organization with a searchable identity and history, written by an author with a searchable identity and history, and conforms to a particular online genre of news publication (blog, citizen journalism, etc) or classic news genre (editorial, straight reporting, photo-essay, etc.).
Basic Facts: The basic information (who, what, when, where, why & how) is clear within the first few sentences, is supported with evidence, and can be confirmed in other news outlets.
Evidence: Articles consistently identify sources for information with names and/or links, and sources are credible, appropriate, and multiple. All reported facts, unless widely known, are verified with sources. It is also clear that reporting reflects skeptical pursuit of knowledge, not just relaying source information at face value. Facts are not cherry-picked to support a particular point.
Bias: The publication is transparent about its publication and editorial processes: publication, funding, and editorial staff information is easily available, and editorial guidelines are clear and consistent. Biases are openly acknowledged, and retractions or corrections are issued when details are reported inaccurately.

If you read no further, at least consider pledging to:

  1. Share only after reading the full article. (Headlines are often overstated and sometimes even contradict the article.)
  2. Share only when you know the source. (Is it nbc.com, or nbc.com.co? One is real, the other fake.)
  3. Wait a few minutes before sharing. (Let the jolt of indignation, concern, or enthusiasm subside so your rational mind can take the wheel.)