In this lesson, we present seven steps to help you judge the quality of news reporting:
Step One: Main Points
Be able to recognize and re-state the main points of the story. An intelligent news consumer asks: What are the facts and how are they presented?
Step Two: Evidence
Examine the evidence. How has the reporter confirmed the evidence? Is there video you can trust? Is there a paper trail -- documents to prove what happened?
Step Three: Sources
Consider the sources of the story. Are they named or not identified in the story?
Step Four: Openness
What is the transparency level -- the level of openness -- in the news organization? Where did they get their information?
Step Five: Knowledge of Subject
Is there something to provide context, such as background information or history? Does the reporter have a command of the subject of the report?
Step Six: The Five “W”s
Are important pieces of information missing? Does the report answer the questions: what happened? Where, when and why did it happen? Who was involved?
Step Seven: Self Examination
Are you open to fairness? As a news consumer, you must know yourself. Do you have opinions or beliefs that could influence your judgment?
Perhaps step seven is the most important of the seven steps. Ask yourself: Are you more likely to believe a story if it confirms your pre-existing beliefs? That is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a sort of blindness that leads news consumers to seek out information they WANT to be true. A smart news consumer seeks out information from multiple sources, weighing the reputation of each source, and comparing their coverage.
Using these seven steps, a reader or listener can decide the quality and truthfulness of news reports.
In our final lesson, we will consider journalistic responsibility in the age of social media.
This lesson is based on the News Literacy class at the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University. For more on how to become a news literate citizen, go to The Center for News Literacy.
Words in This Story
consumer -- n. one who buys or uses a product
transparency - n. the quality that makes it possible to see through something
context - n. the situation in which something happens : the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens
bias - n. a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly