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How to Find Reliable Media to Inform Yourself
The Importance of Critical Analysis
Those who are familiar with the DIRECTV commercials understand the comedic element in their unrealistic causal story of getting from A to B, for example, going from having a poor cable company to being in a roadside ditch (see example here DIRECTV commercial - Don't Wake Up in a Roadside Ditch). What’s not so comical is how a similar phenomenon occurs in reality through the media we consume every day.
News coverage can be skewed dramatically depending on the source, meaning different narratives and conclusions are reported on the same current event, which can make it difficult to decipher the facts from the noise (see example here: Fact checking online is more important than ever). Don’t cause the world to become full of anger and ignorance, fact check! There are resources available to prevent false information from spreading, and we must hold ourselves accountable in using them. For more information on staying informed in the age of social media, watch the following video:
In a time where our political climate is particularly charged around ideas about false news, it’s important to be make sure you critically examine your news source. Your news source provides you with the knowledge of public perception and knowledge of various social issues. It’s important that the information you find comes from a reliable source with accurate information. All news sources have their bias, but some are less biased in terms of partisanship than others.
Below are resources to help you find these reliable sources with accurate information including methods to learn how to critically examine media on your own and tools to help determine source bias. For more information on the real consequences of false news and how it becomes pervasive within regularly published media, watch the following videos:
What is Media Literacy?
The key to finding reliable media to inform yourself is having the critical analysis skills to examine media. No matter what type of media you’re looking for it’s important to have the skill of media literacy. The Critical Media Project from the University of Southern California Annenberg defines media literacy as, “ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms” (Overview: The Critical Media Project).
The Center for Media Literacy has five key questions to develop your media literacy based on the five core concepts of media. Below is a chart connecting the core concepts to a keyword to remember them by and the key questions to ask in order to critically analyze media. These key questions are important to keep in mind with all types of media. Click on each core concept and key question in the chart to learn more.
The main goal of media literacy is to help you form informed opinions. This flowchart provides a guide to the general steps for how to inform your opinions. More resources and tips are described below for you to learn how to more deeply analyze media.
How to Recognize Source Bias
It's important to determine whether your source is biased to the right or the left, and to read articles from a range of sources, including those you may disagree with, in order to gain perspective and address your own bias. Use extreme caution when reading sources that seem to contain biased information.
Breitbart is notable as both a new source of media and information where false positive claims are often made. Click the following to see Snopes fact checking of some Breitbart article claims.
To check for bias, here are a few guiding steps:
1.) Ask yourself: Where do you typically get your news from?
Evaluate where your preferences may lay.
2.) Further research
Pro Tip: Bookmark these pages for quick referencing.
Bias in the media (See: Key Considerations in Determining Source Bias).
Your own bias (See: AllSides: What's Your Bias?).
The validity of information you consume.
How to critically and effectively engage in civic discourse (See: AllSides: Civil Discourse).
Encourage others to always, always fact check their information.
Engage in civil discourse.
Participate in political activities related to the issues you care about.
Positive Evaluation of Sources: Is This True?
Signs an organization has a stake in telling the truth:
The organization is known for providing accurate information.
The organization is likely to exist for a long time.
The organization retracts false stories or details when they are revealed.
There should be a clear way to report any false details.
Ways to check to see if information is true:
Use a fact checking website like Snopes or Politifact. Many of the most popular false claims have already been evaluated by fact checking organizations.
Compare facts between stories. If a story biased to the right contains a questionable fact, see if you can find sources on the left or in the center which use the same facts. This can also work for other types of bias. Eg. establishment non-establishment.