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CIS Secondary Library: Y11 Fake News

CIS Secondary Library: Making the Virtual Visible

News Source Analysis

Steps for Analyzing News Websites

Step 1:  Title/Domain Analysis. If words like “.wordpress” or “blogger” are in the domain that usually signifies it’s a personal blog rather than a news source. If slight variations of well known websites appear, such as “.com.co,” this is usually a sign that the website is fake version of a source. However, remember that foreign reputable news organizations may have these country-specific domains.

 

Step 2: About Us Analysis. I usually google every title/domain name/anyone listed in the “About Us” section to see if anyone has previously reported on the website (snopes, hoax-slayer, politifact, factcheck.org, etc.) or whether it has a wikipedia page or something similar detailing its background. This is useful for identifying and correctly interpreting lesser known and/or new websites that may be on the up-and-up, such as satirical sources or websites that are explicit about their political orientation. Then I look for information about the credentials and backgrounds of affiliated writers (is it a content mill or do they pay their writers?), editors, publishers, and domain owners (who.is etc.). It’s also useful to see if the website has a “Legal” or “Disclaimer” section. Many satirical websites disclose this information in those sections. A total lack of About Us, Contact US, or any other type of identifying information may mean that the website is not a legitimate source of information.

 

Step 3: Source Analysis. Does the website mention/link to a study or source? Look up the source/study. Do you think it’s being accurately reflected and reported? Are officials being cited? Can you confirm their quotes elsewhere? Some media literacy and critical scholars call this triangulation: Verify details, facts, quotes, etc. with multiple sources.

 

Step 4: Writing Style Analysis. Does the website follow AP Style Guide or another style guide? Typically, lack of style guide may indicate an overall lack of editing or fact-checking process. Does it frequently use ALL CAPS in headlines and/or body text? Does the headline or body of the text use words like WOW!, SLAUGHTER!, DESTROY!? This stylistic practice and these types of hyperbolic word choices are often used to create emotional responses with readers that is avoided in more traditional styles of journalism.

 

Step 5:  Aesthetic Analysis. Like the style-guide, many fake and questionable news sites utilize very bad design. Usually this means screens are cluttered with text and heavy-handed photoshopping or born digital images.

 

Step 6: Social Media Analysis.  Look up the website on Facebook. Do the headlines and posts rely on sensational or provocative language-- aka clickbait-- in order to attract attention and encourage likes, clickthroughs, and shares? Do the headlines and social media descriptions match or accurately reflect the content of the linked article? (this step isn’t particularly good at helping us find fake news, but it can help us identify other misleading news sources).

 

 This material comes from Dr. Melissa Zimdars, a professor of Communication & Media at Merrimack College.

How to Play Factitious

There are three basic steps after you choose the level of challenge (we recommend choosing the most difficult):

  • Read the article
  • Swipe to the right (or choose ) if you think it’s a real story
  • Swipe to the left (or choose ) if you think it’s fake
  • Click on the image or link above to begin!

That’s it for basic rules. Maybe that’s why more than 800,000 people have already played the game (as of 1/11/19).

Scrutinize Your News

These labels and definitions are helpful when scrutinizing your interactions with various media.

Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports.
Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.
Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.
Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.  
Conspiracy: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories. Ex: 9/11 conspiracies, chem-trails, lizard people in the sewer systems, birther rumors, flat earth ‘theory,’ fluoride as mind control, vaccines as mind control etc.
Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, OR questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.  These sources may also use sensational language to generate interest, clickthroughs, and shares, but their content is typically verifiable.
Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.  
Reliable: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).Credible (tag reliable): Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).

 

 This material comes from Dr. Melissa Zimdars, a professor of Communication & Media at Merrimack College.

Check Your Facts!