FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 09, 2017
Fake news, Part 2: How to be a smart reader who isn’t tricked by viral nonsense
Identify signs of credibility in any article.
List reasons why a local newspaper is generally a more reliable information source than social media.
Read about any dispute and tell whether the article seems fair and balanced. Why?
(Second of two parts. Last week: What's behind the fake news phenomenon and why it matters.)
It's important to know how to tell reliable news sites from untrustworthy ones, especially now. A growing number of partisan sites and shady operators post made-up tales and rumors presented to look like legitimate news. Bogus posts spread on social media, and you don’t want to look gullible by sharing phony reports. Being able to tell the difference is called media literacy – a critical thinking skill for news consumers of all ages. "As recent headlines demonstrate, this work is more important now than ever," says education Professor Sam Wineburg of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., the main author of a November report on students’ abilities to evaluate media sources properly.
Healthy skepticism and quick research make it fairly easy to distinguish professionally edited media from poseurs or suspicious newcomers posting hoaxes. These are among obvious clues:
Media literacy also involves reading more than headlines or social media summaries of stories. Even mainstream publications or broadcasters can’t give context and balance in a few lines, so don't assume those "teasers" give you a full, fair grasp of news. Also, be wary of questions used as headlines. It can be a way to run a story without confirming it or a way to lure readers ("click bait") with a provocative question that leads to the answer "no."
Research report says: "We worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish." – Stanford University study, Nov. 22
Teacher says: "Once you start giving students the tools to understand when they're being manipulated, you’re blown away with the changes you see." -- Claire Beach, film and media instructor in Edmonds, Wash.
Blogger says: "There's no one simple solution, but we can start by not sharing stories simply because they make us mad. Fake news and misleading stories thrive in anger." – Eric Ravenscraft, senior writer at lifehacker.com
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