Identifying Misinformation in the News and Media

Submitted by CCCL_RobynB

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the news. Whether you prefer to get your news from a newspaper (digital or physical), social media, from friends and family, through podcasts, or by listening to the radio, it seems like there are always stories that contradict each other or offer alternate facts. So how do you know what to believe, and where do you find trusted sources? I’m going to share a few tools to help you sort out misinformation (facts that might be distorted or not totally accurate in context), disinformation (purposefully misleading or false information), and the truth. 

First up, an acronym that you can apply to any story you read or hear: 

SIFT  

Stop: Take a moment to think about what you are reading. Do you have context? Do you know the source or where it came from originally? 

Investigate the source: What possible biases might they have? Is it a reputable source? 

Find trusted coverage: If the story or claim interests you, try finding other sources that have also reported on the story. Look for stories from trustworthy sites. 

Trace: Trace claims, quotes, and media back to their original context. This will help you notice if part of the story or a photo has been taken out of context for the purposes of the story.

If you are interested in digging down deep into specific issues, the Points of View database is a great place to start. You can access it online with your library card number. It offers detailed overviews of current issues and articles about the issues from different perspectives. This is a great place for students to find current, accurate research on various topics for school assignments. Additional non-partisan websites include the following:  

Another tool you can use is a reverse photo search. Often, media outlets and social media posts will go viral with an image that is completely out of context. You can search for the original image by going to google.com/images, clicking on the camera icon, and either entering the URL of an image (right click on an image and choose “copy image address”) or by uploading a saved image. The results will give you more context as to when it might have been originally posted, what other websites it has appeared on, and when it was originally taken. 

Your public library is always here to help connect you with accurate and relevant information. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or need help using the resources listed above. 

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