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Journalism & Professional Writing

Resources for investigative reporting and research, as well as other writing projects

Charting media bias chart

The media bias chart is available here.

Detecting trustworthy media

[Formatting under construction. But please explore the content.]

Finding truth and identifying misinformation in our current world

Considerations/criteria (summary):

  • SMELL:

    • Source? Check the media creator (Author, publisher details)

    • Motivation (Creator’s bias, profit, power)

    • Evidence

    • Logic (Any fallacies?)

    • Left out (Are multiple perspectives presented?)


    • Independent or self-interested sources? [Motivation/Bias]

    • Multiple sources of evidence? [Evidence]

    • Coverage Verified with evidence or just sources asserting [Evidence/Motivation]

    • Authoritative/Informed sources [Evidence]

    • Named sources? [Evidence]

  • Techniques to attract/sustain attention? (Different media modes have different rules for communication)

  • Reader’s bias/emotions (emotions tend to cloud judgment and are therefore an effective deception tool)

  • Purpose (News? Satire? Opinion?)

  • Quality (typos, conspiratorial tones)

  • Timeliness (Current or recycled?)

  • Delivery mode (algorithm-delivered into social media feed, or directly from news source)


Tactics for readers:

  • Actively look for multiple perspectives (inside of a single piece AND in a range of other pubs)

  • Notice your own reaction (misinformation may use emotion for appeal & to mask truth)

  • Be suspicious of social media feeds. (And whatever lands in a made-for-you feed). Get news from news sources (national and regional newspapers)

  • Use a fact check website (snopes, politifact, factcheck, factchecker). Or, type some topic words into a web search, plus include the word ‘hoax’.

  • Explore the content creator. (About page? Author bio? Image search author’s bio pic?)

  • Is this some kind of joke? (Satire? Opinion?)

  • Read beyond the headline. (Even in legitimate news stories, the headline doesn’t always tell the whole story. But fake news, particularly efforts to be satirical, can include several revealing signs in the text.)

  • What’s the support? (Bogus stories will cite official — or official-sounding — sources, but once you look into it, the source doesn’t back up the claim.) 

  • Images commonly used to attract/deceive

  • Check the date. (Distorting reality -- eg causation/correlation -- by changing the timeline)

  • Check your own biases. (Confirmation bias can make us less critical, less open to alternative explanations, evidence, viewpoints)


Tools and resources: