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Janet Peischel

Janet Peischel

Fake news is under fire by the Trump administration. Many people who believe fake news believe everything they see in print.

“I read it on the Internet, so it must be true, right?”

Really, really wrong.

If you’re getting your news from the exaggerated headlines at the checkout counter and dubious Internet sites, it’s time you realized that you’re likely reading fake news.

Whatever happened to critical thinking?

What’s disturbing is that we seem to have raised a generation of people who have lost the ability to think, to question, to differentiate between legitimate reporting and that which is pure fabrication. People should have a fundamental sense of media literacy.

Here are four ways to evaluate the legitimacy of a news story.

1. Pay attention to the domain and URL

Established news organizations usually own their domains, and they have a standard look that you will recognize.

Sites that end with .com.co should tip you off that they may not be legitimate. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos.

An example: abcnews.com is a legitimate news source; abcnews.com.co is not.

2. Read the About section

Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, its leadership, mission and the organization’s ethics.

The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and overblown, it’s a red flag. You also should be able to find information about the organization’s leadership all over the web.

Google them and look at their credentials. If they’re questionable, so is the publication.

3. Be wary of the lack of quotes

Most publications quote multiple sources in each story from professionals with expertise in the fields they are discussing. If it’s a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes – lots of them — from industry experts.

Look for professors, industry heavyweights or well-known academics who can speak to the research they’ve done. If they are referencing research, look up those studies to validate them.

4. Be equally wary of the source of quotes

Check the sourcing. Is it a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search? Let’s say you’re reading an article about President Obama’s wanting to take everyone’s guns away, and the article includes a quote.

Now, there are transcripts of pretty much every address or speech President Obama has ever given; they’re all recorded and archived.

Take a minute and Google some of the article’s quotes to understand the topic, audience and date. Even if he did an exclusive interview with a publication, that same quote will be referenced in other stories.

A free press and independent journalism are central to democracy. We now have the ability to validate the news we’re receiving. It’s up to each of us to be a critical thinker, to support free and independent journalism.

Our Founding Fathers understood its importance to a system of healthy checks and balances, which is fundamental to our democracy.

Contact Janet at 510-292-1843 or jpeischel@top-mindmarketing.com.

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