Media Literacy & Fact Checking

“Fake news” is a term that has been thrown around a lot in recent times. It may sound redundant, but it is severely damaging to the reputation of journalists. The more the general public is misinformed, the more we are going to be seen as untrustworthy. However, it can be difficult to decipher what sources are truthful and which are not.

For example, Nieman Lab recently came out with an article called “Even smart people are shockingly bad at analyzing sources online. This might be an actual solution”. The articles details a study done by researchers at Stanford about fact-checking. The researchers gave 25 students, 10 professional fact checkers, and 10 Ph.D. historians a series of fact-checking tasks.

For example, the participants were given the websites of the “American Academy of Pediatrics” and the “American College of Pediatricians”. Then, the subjects had to decide which website was more legitimate. At first glance, both websites look professionally made and seem to be a source of non-biased information. However, the Academy is the main hub for pediatricians across the nation. The organization releases an educational journal for doctors, and has over 60,000 members. On the contrary, the College stemmed from the Academy,¬†because of their stance on same-sex couples adopting. It also has a fraction of the members, and staff.

100% of the fact checkers claimed the Academy as being more trustworthy, whereas only 50% of historians made the same claim.

64% of students actually claimed the contrary, and believed the College seemed more reliable. When asked why, students claimed that the look of the website was more user-friendly and the lack of advertisements made it seem more legitimate.

Websites like Snopes.com can help any news-consumer. Simply type in the news you heard in the search bar, and Snopes will break it down into: claim, rating of how accurate the news is, the origin of the news, and how much is true/false. It is a great tool not just for journalists, but for anyone wanting to verify something they read online.

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