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FYSP 169: Decolonizing Global Capitalism: Evaluating Sources

What Is Fake News?

“Fake news” is a term that has come to mean different things to different people. However, one thing is certain: fake news is NOT news that you disagree with!

We define “fake news” as news stories that are false, i.e., the stories are fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources, or quotes.  Sometimes these stories may be propaganda items that are intentionally designed to mislead the reader, or that may be designed as “clickbait” written for economic incentives (such as when the writer profits on the number of people who click on the story). In recent years, fake news stories have proliferated via social media, in part because they are so easily and quickly shared online. (Adapted from University of Michigan Library)

What is a Scholarly Article?

Both scholarly and peer-reviewed articles are written by experts in academic or professional fields. Scholarly articles are published in journals for specific academic disciplines. Many scholarly journals are also peer-reviewed.

Peer-reviewed articles are submitted to reviewers who are experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).

Both scholarly and peer-reviewed articles are excellent places to find what has been studied or researched on a topic, as well as find references to additional relevant sources of information. 

Types of Information Content

Adapted and extended based on the definitions used by Melissa Zimdars' Open Sources project.

  • Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate disinformation and deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports.
  • Misinformation: False information that is spread regardless of an intent to mislead.
  • Disinformation: False claims and information and conspiracy theories that are spread with the intent to mislead.
  • DeepFakes: Use of video software to create events that never happened or distort a person's statements for propaganda purposes or to discredit public figures for political gain. 
  • Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, satire, and false information to comment on current events.
  • State-sponsored News: Sources, particularly in repressive or authoritarian states, operating under government sanctions and control that spread disinformation and misinformation. Propaganda.
  • Junk Science: Sources that promote discredited conspiracy theories or scientifically false or dubious claims.
  • Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of harmful bias and discrimination.
  • Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.
  • Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.
  • Credible: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism. (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information, especially sources that issue corrections on previous reporting).

SIFT Method

Be An Active News Consumer

Be curious.

  • Independently verify the source (by performing a separate search) and independently verify the information (through mainstream news sources and fact-checking sites).

Be reflective.

  • If you have an immediate emotional reaction to a news article or source: pause, reflect, investigate. Exciting and emotional reaction is a primary goal of fake news producers. Do not be part of a viral fake news spiral!

Actively investigate your news sources.

  • Select news sources which are known for high-quality, investigative reporting. Search these sources directly. Don't settle for web search results or social media news feeds. Social media algorithms are designed to present the news that reinforces your current views, not a balanced view.

Look for in-depth coverage.

  • Look for lengthy articles -- long-form reporting -- that better capture the complexity of topics and events. One or two paragraphs is not sufficient. Take a look at this article from Slate as an example.

News Sources on the Political Spectrum

AllSides is a news website that presents multiple sources side by side in order to provide the full scope of news reporting.

The AllSides Bias Ratings page allows you to filter a list of news sources by bias (left, center, right).

AllSides uses a patented bias rating system to classify news sources as left, center, or right-leaning. Components of the rating system include crowd-sourcing, surveys, internal research, and the use of third-party sources such as Wikipedia and research conducted by Groseclose and Milyo at UCLA. Note that while the Groseclose & Milyo results are popular, the methodology it is not without critique.

Image shows various online news content providers organized into categories reflecting media bias, left center or right

INTERACTIVE Media Bias Chart by Vanessa Otero

The chart was created by Vanessa Otero, a patent attorney, who delivered a webinar to librarians on Information Literacy. Click on the chart below to go to an interactive and more recent version of Otero's Media Bias Chart. On version 5.0 (beta) users can search individual newspaper titles to see where they fall on the spectrum of liberal or conservative, based on Otero's/Ad Fontes Media's evaluation system.


Image of media bias chart showing logos for various news outlets and where they fall on the scale between reliability and political bias (left, center, or right)