If it’s one thing we can say with confidence about the digital age, it’s that it has given us unprecedented access to news and information. But the very nature of “always on, on-demand, breaking news” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week has also given rise to a great deal of misinformation, and even active attempts at disinformation, purposefully designed to make false and fake news go viral to the point of dissuading, discouraging or otherwise creating major shifts in public opinion.
That means that now, more than ever, content writers, publishers and consumers need to work together to be able to separate fact from fiction. That’s where fact-checking news articles comes in.
In this detailed article, we’ll cover why fact checking news articles is important, how to go about it, and what resources you can use to zero in on what’s true, accurate and credible, and what isn’t. Let’s get started:
Why Fact Check News Articles?
Beyond helping to curb the spread of misinformation (which can have real-world repercussions), fact checking also helps promote accountable journalism and better, more-informed decision making in general. It teaches people not to blindly rely on what the media tells you and encourages the importance of critical thinking. This in turn allows the public to approach everything from elections to viral news with a healthy dose of skepticism and deeper understanding.
How to Fact Check News Articles
In order to fact check news articles, it’s important to approach them with a plan of action. Just as you can’t believe everything you read, many news articles are designed to be published with a preference on speed over accuracy. Here’s how to fact check a news article step-by-step:
Evaluate the Source
Who’s behind the article? Is it a reputable news source or a site you’ve never heard of? Established media companies usually have a rigorous editorial process that helps add to their accuracy, which often includes first-person sources like eye-witness accounts or video, detailed one-on-one interviews and much more.
Check for Bias
All humans are biased in some form or another. And as such, every news outlet has some sort of bias. Be cautious of articles or stories that sound overly one-sided or lend preference to a specific perspective or point of view.
Beyond the inherent bias of the organization or media source, also be sure to check your own biases. We humans tend to look for confirmation bias wherever we can find it (findings that align with your own beliefs). Your own biases can cloud how reliable you determine an article is, so it’s important to maintain self-awareness and be objective when reviewing the facts.
Check the Author’s Credentials
Established journalists with a history in the field are much more likely to provide accurate content. Look closely at the author’s credentials and their background. If the author is anonymous, that should throw up even more red flags.
Cross-Reference the Facts
Check the claims made in the article with other reputable news sites and sources. Look especially for direct quotes and verify their authenticity. In addition to cross-referencing facts, be sure to check the date on the publication, as details can change quickly. Making sure the story is current and relevant is key to understanding the big picture.
Analyze the Images and Video
Beyond fact-checking the text of the website, it’s also a good idea to look for manipulated images and videos as well. Tools like Google’s Reverse Image Search can help you verify the authenticity of photos while sites like Deepfake Detector can help you uncover AI-edited and deepfake videos.
Use Online Tools and Websites
Online tools exist to help track the origin of photos and videos and whether or not they’ve been edited, but there also exist tools which check for things like media bias and fact check news articles. For example, Media Bias Fact Check is a website that helps users determine the accuracy of news stories by pinpointing fake news sites that pop up online.
Other tools, like Originality.AI’s own fact checking tool can be used as part of a broader publication and content verification strategy. With Originality.AI’s fact checking tool, you can choose to run the tool on various statements within your text to determine their accuracy. The tool itself leverages AI and machine learning to gain a better understanding of the context of your statements. You can also use this tool in conjunction with other Originality.AI tools like our robust AI detector, plagiarism detector and many others, or use it on its own to fact check news articles.
Whose Responsibility Is It to Fact Check News Articles?
Many people believe that the heart of responsibility in fact checking news articles should be on the organizations and the media themselves. However, there’s simply too much information out there, being created and published too fast, for any one group to take on the heavy burden of verifying it all.
For this reason, fact checking news articles needs to encompass a multi-pronged solution. That means that not only should the various leading platforms take responsibility and offer tools to help make fact checking text easier, but the user themselves should play their part as well.
For example, starting with a grassroots approach in school, educators can help the next generation more easily analyze the content they come into contact with by incorporating media literacy as part of their curriculum. Teaching students to be skeptical of the information they consume, whether it’s videos, photos or text, and showing them how to verify that content is credible and trustworthy can go a long way in stemming the tide of misinformation.
At the same time, our efforts shouldn’t just stop at educating the next generation. The public in general also needs to play an active role in how they verify the credibility of the content they consume. False information has been shown to have a variety of real-world effects on the global population as a whole – swaying elections, inciting violence and creating panic unnecessarily. For instance, the spread of health-related misinformation can result in reluctance to take vaccines which can then cause preventable disease outbreaks – all because of a targeted misinformation campaign.
As you can see, misinformation has an, at times, disastrous effect on society as a whole. That means it’s up to us, together with technology and education on our side, to be proactive in rooting out misinformation and disinformation. Fact checking news articles is just one slice of a very large ecosystem pie where media, technology, education and many more efforts must come together to ensure that the public is well-informed about their choices.