In November 2016, Stanford University researchers made an alarming discovery: across the US, many students can’t tell the difference between a reported news article, a persuasive opinion piece, and a corporate ad. This lack of media literacy makes young people vulnerable to getting duped by “fake news” — which can have real consequences.
Want to strengthen your own ability to tell real news from fake news? Start by asking these five questions of any news item:
Who wrote it? Real news contains a byline. Fake news (including “sponsored content” and traditional corporate ads) does not. Once you find the byline, look at the writer’s bio. This can help you identify whether the item you’re reading is a reported news article (written by a journalist) or a persuasive opinion piece (written by an industry expert with a point of view).
What claims does it make? Real news — like these Pulitzer Prize winning articles — will include multiple primary sources when discussing a controversial claim.
When was it published? Look at the publication date. If it’s breaking news, be extra careful. Here’s how to decode breaking news.
How does it make you feel? Fake news, like all propaganda, is designed to make you feel strong emotions. So if you read a news item that makes you feel super angry, pause and take a deep breath. Then, check the item’s claims against the news on BBC, NPR, and ProPublica to decide for yourself if the item is real news or fake news.
To dive deeper into news and media literacy, learn how to choose your news.