content farm or content mill: a company that employs a staff of freelance writers to create content designed to satisfy search engine retrieval algorithms with the goal of attracting views and advertising revenue
echo chamber: a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented
fact checking: the act of verifying assertions either prior to publication or after dissemination of the content
filter bubble: When search tool results present stories we are likely to click on or share based on our past activity, potentially affirming our biases
herding phenomenon: as more journalists begin to cover a story, even more journalists are likely to join the herd, imitating the angle the story initially took rather than developing alternate or original approaches or angles
native advertising: paid, sponsored content designed to look like the legitimate content produced by the media outlet.
triangulation or cross-verification: Researchers establish validity by using several research methods and by analyzing and examining multiple perspectives and sources in the hope that diverse viewpoints can shed greater light on a topic.
satisficing: a blending of the words satisfy and suffice to refer to the tendency of people, bounded by time limitations, to select good enough information over optimal information
virality: the rapid circulation of media from one user to another.
Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources.
Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
If the website you’re reading encourages you to dox individuals (doxing is searching for and publishing private or identifying information about someone on the Internet, typically with malicious intent), it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.
It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
2016 by Melissa Zimdars. (Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.)