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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fact or Fiction?


The process by which educators teach their students in developing skills to determine fact from fiction must always begin with verification. What is verification? It is the steps by which we gather, assess, confirm and weigh evidence in search of truth.

 New School & Old School Strategies

 How Do We Recognize A Fake News Story?

1)   Who is the author

2)   Check what news outlet published it

3)   Look at what links and sources were used

4)   Check the publish date and time

5)   Look out for suspicious quotes and photos

6)   Beware of confirmation bias

Old School? Take a trip down the rabbit hole when researching authors and their publications. Always begin by researching primary sources of information, such as public documentation cited by author. Research all footnotes and links. Locate what else might have been published by the author with regard to topic, either through abstracts or journals. If in a book format, look to see who might have contributed to the foreword and research their publications.

 Resources for Spotting Fake News

Tin Eye Reverse Image & Search

Washington Post Fact Checker

On The Media Fake News Handbook

Below is a glossary of “The Language of News Literacy” from the School of Journalism; Stony Brook University, LI, NY 

1) Accountability – Taking direct responsibility, by name, for the truthfulness and the reliability of the report. Examples include bylines in print and digital journalism and signoffs in audio and video reports.

2) Actionable Information – Information that empowers a news consumer to make active choices about matters of both public and personal importance. Examples include which candidate to vote for or making career or personal health choices. 

3) Balance – Equality between the totals of the two (or more) sides of the account. Balance is a more technical term than fairness. It’s a quantitative measurement that can be used as a tool to achieve fairness, especially in cases where the facts are in dispute or the truth is still developing. 

4) Bias – A predisposition that distorts your ability to fairly weigh the evidence and prevents you from reaching a fair or accurate judgment. Here’s how to spot bias: Look for evidence of unfairness over time; compare a variety of news outlets, especially to search for bias by omission; take note of the self-interest of those alleging bias. 

5) Cognitive Dissonance – A psychological theory that people who are so powerfully motivated to reduce their discomfort that they will dismiss, block or warp incoming information that does not conform with their beliefs, viewpoint or understanding of the truth. 

6) Context – Background or ancillary information that is necessary to understand the scope, impact, magnitude or meaning of new facts reported as news. 

7) Direct Evidence – Anything that was captured firsthand or on the scene (i.e. video, recordings, photographs, documents, records, eyewitness accounts). 

8) Entertainment – Something affording pleasure, diversion or amusement. 

9) Fair Comment – Protects your right to criticize and comment on matters of public interest without being liable for defamation, provided that the comment is an honest expression of opinion and free of malice. 

10) Fourth Estate – An old European phrase used to describe the     press and its role as a watchdog. In America, the four estates of   power are the three branches of government and the citizens to   counterbalance them. 

11) Independence – Freedom from the control, influence or support of interested parties. Journalists are expected to avoid reporting on matters in which they may have a financial stake, personal/familial ties, or intellectual prejudice by virtue of declarations of allegiance. 

12) Information Neighborhoods – News Literacy students are taught a taxonomy that allows them to quickly navigate information neighborhood: News, Entertainment, Advertising, Promotion, Propaganda and Raw Information. 

13) Journalist – A journalist’s primary mission is to inform the public while employing journalistic methods such as verification to uphold journalistic values in order to maintain independence and accountability. 

14) Scientific Truth – A statement of probability proportional to the evidence, which will change over time, as further research changes our understanding daily (covid19). 

15) Propaganda – Information, ideas or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution or nation. It is often biased and misleading, in order to promote an ideology or point of view. 

16) No Prior Restraint – The government and courts cannot stop something from being published, broadcast or posted on the Internet, except in rare instances. 

17) Privilege – Protects your right to publish court testimony, police reports or other public documents, even if they contain falsehoods. This is because the public has the privilege to review the contents of government files as a means of ensuring police, courts and other agencies are conducting themselves correctly. 

18) News Literacy – The ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports, whether the come via print, television or the Internet. 

19) Truth – Events as they actually happened, phenomena as they actually exist. 

20) Verification – The investigative process by which a news organization gathers, assesses, confirms and weighs evidence in search for truth. 

Disciplines of Verification

Gather, assess and weigh evidence

Place facts in the big picture (context)

Be fair when appropriate, adjust balance

Maintain transparency 

21) VIA – Acronym used in the course to stand for Verification, Independence, and Accountability. Reliable information has all three of these characteristics.

Find more info on checking for facts, bias, and fake news here:


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