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The Essentials of Fact-Checking: Know Your News

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Any news source with credibility, integrity, and accuracy relies on facts. In a time where not all news is based in truth, it’s crucial to grasp the basics of fact-checking when consuming media. Here’s a checklist that will guide you in finding fact-based media: 

Consider the Source 

Get familiar with the sources of your news. Are the outlets local or national? Is their coverage reliable or inconsistent? Are they funded by organizations whose interests may sway the news shared?  

You can also look at your habits: do you often gather your news from similar sources or look at various outlets? Broadening your sources can help you gain more context and evaluate the news from a variety of perspectives. 

Man kneeling in front of a table covered in pamphlets, talking to a woman sitting behind the table

Within the vast landscape of news (digital, print, and television), knowing the source of your content will anchor you from the start. Seek out diverse news sources that have a reputation for producing verified information. 

Know the Full Scope of Information 

Understanding the context of a story will guide you in finding the facts.  

Ask yourself, do I have a complete rendering of the story and the elements expressed? Is anything in this article being left out or over-emphasized? 

Use lateral reading, which involves reading a story across different sources, to get a fuller picture of the story. Lateral reading helps us determine if any information is being left out or falsely amplified. It’s also always a good idea to get more information about a topic of interest. 

Be Mindful About Social Media 

More and more, people are getting their news from social media. However, not all news on sites like X (Twitter) or Facebook is rooted in fact. Misinformation runs rampant on social media, largely due to the speed and scale in which it is shared.  

Consider this: what audience is a given account trying to reach, and how might that shape their story? Are there echo chambers present? Is the news presented via a forum that invites alternative opinions or open debate on the topic? Does the headline seem like “clickbait,” or content designed to get maximum interest with minimal context? 

These questions will clarify how news is presented and how people engage with it on social media. 

Examine Objectivity and Emotion 

Understanding the manner in which facts are reported is imperative. Is the reporting free of bias, or do you feel the story is one-sided? Does the piece activate strong emotions like fear or anger? 

Facts are facts; they are even-keeled, and they need no embellishment. They also don’t need to play on your emotions to get a reaction.  

Thorough fact-checking allows you to use cultural context and awareness when navigating content. The grounding questions above will help you solidify the facts and better understand the news. 

The upcoming presidential election will occur within an ever-evolving, fast-paced, and sometimes unwieldy news cycle. Incorporating a fact-checking routine will add balance to your news consumption. Creating moments of pause and reflection when reading the news allows you to ask essential questions and analyze deeper.  

Fact-checking builds a renewed sense of critical thinking —  

 and it’s important to use this skill set across media outlets to discern the truth about our news, nation, and votes. 

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