How to Research a News Story

How to Research a News Story

( – President Trump is never shy about calling a lot of the media “fake news” – and he has a very good point. The days when journalists simply reported what was happening are long gone. Now, even the major news networks slant their reporting to suit their political views, and online-only news outlets are even worse. It’s gotten to the point that you can’t just believe a news story – you need to do your own research to strip away the bias. Here’s how.

Where’s It From?

Not all news sources are equally reliable. Social media is totally unreliable; don’t trust any news you see there. “News stories” distributed as Facebook ads are being abused to promote just about everything. Major news channels won’t usually tell flat-out lies, but they do spin the news to suit their editorial slant. Agencies like Reuters and AP are probably the most reliable – but they’re still worth checking.

Is It Verifiable?

If a story says something happened, check that it really did. Look at other news channels. If the story says police were involved, look up the local police department’s website or Twitter feed to see if they mention it; if they don’t, be wary.

Look for multiple sources for the story; if it’s only been printed in one place, that’s a red flag. However, if a lot of websites are carrying it but they all use very similar language, that’s a red flag too. Many small, independent news sites and blogs copy each other and just change enough to avoid being caught plagiarizing.

Don’t take the story as a whole. Break it down into facts that can be checked, and use those facts to verify each detail. If an event mentioned in the story didn’t happen, anything it claims spun out of that event probably isn’t true either.

Count the Quotes

News stories are about people, and people say things. If there are no quotes, that’s suspicious. If there are quotes, Google them — if it only appears in the original story, it could be altered, or even completely fake.

Check the Comments

Before you start to investigate a story, see what the comments below it say. Maybe someone else has already investigated. If there’s someone in the comments section saying the story’s fake, read what they say (even if you want the story to be true). Have they cited any evidence? Check it out for yourself.

Don’t Be Fooled By Graphics

We instinctively find images and video convincing – but even they can be deceptive. If a story features video, run a search with some appropriate keywords. Often, fake stories are “supported” by a video that looks right at first glance, but, turns out to be old or filmed somewhere else. Run a reverse image search on any photos, and see if that snapshot of police brutality turns out to have been taken in Bulgaria in 1983.

There’s so much fake or biased news out there now that, if you want to be well-informed about what’s going on, you need to take personal responsibility for checking what you see, read and hear. Don’t be taken in by fake news, and help friends or family by telling them if the story they’re repeating is inaccurate. We all deserve to know the truth, but today we often have to find it for ourselves.

Copyright 2020,