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How to tell real news from fake.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

This page is intended to help you to verify and utilize fact-based news resources for research purposes.

Types of Fake News

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There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Tips

What to do:

 

  1. Read/watch/listen very widely.

  2. Some generally reliable sources are (some of which require a subscription): The New York TimesThe Washington Post, The Boston GlobeThe Wall Street JournalForbesThe AtlanticNational Public RadioPBS NewsHour, The Economist, The Pew Research Center, Democracy Now, as well as various local sources.

  3. Recognize that even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness.

  4. Be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.

What to avoid:

  1. “Fake, false, regularly misleading sites” which rely on “outrage” using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits” (examples: PoliticaloAmericanNews.com)​

  2. Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information (examples: ConsciousLifeNews.comCountdownToZeroTime.com)

  3. These websites sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions (examples: BipartisanReport.comTheFreeThoughtProject.com)

  4. Purposefully fake satire/comedy sites that can offer critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news (examples: Christwire.orgTheOnion.com)

Fake News in the Real News

Infographic: Fake News Is A Real Problem | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

Why Care about Fake News?

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Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

  1. You deserve the truth.  You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news.

  2. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism.  These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.

  3. Real news can benefit you. If you are writing a research paper, your professor will expect you to vet your sources. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs.  Fake news will not help you get a good grade or make the world a better place, but real news can.

Getting Help

If you have more questions, ask a librarian! We are here to help.​

Stop by the reference desk in person, or visit the Ask a Librarian link to chat, e-mail, or call for answers to your research related questions.

 

 

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Research guide created by Sarah Cohn, Instructional Services Librarian, scohn@pace.edu

Content adapted from Northern Essex CC, Indiana University East, Big Bend CC, Antioch University.