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Alfred Friendly Fellows Research Guide

Tips & resources for news reporting

Evaluating Information Found on the Internet

Journalism Librarian, Sandy Schiefer's Evaluating News and Information research guide - is a comprehensive compilation of resources to assist you in evaluating information that you find on the Internet

Always evaluate content found on websites (using Journalism's 5 Ws + 1 H) before using it as a source. 

  • Who -  Who is the author, content creator or website publisher?  Look for "about us" links, bios, philosophy, etc. What are his/her credentials and how do they relate to the topic?  Search the domain registration for website ownership at: Whois.netWhois requestWhoisology, Internic Whois , IP Whois,Domain DossierBetterWhois, Domain Tools Whois Lookup
  • What - What kind of information is it?  Is the information from primary or secondary resources? Is there documentation or evidence available? Are there references with links to sources and documents cited?
  • Where - Where did you find the information?  Is the source (publisher, organization) reputable?  Is the website legitimate?
  • When - When was the information published?  Is the information current or archived?
  • Why - Why was the information published?  Does the information appear to be biased, based on evidence or quality data? Who is the target audience for the content?
  • How - Is the information accessed? Are there barriers to access (paywall, registration, etc.)?

Be Skeptical  "Skepticism is a Virtue" An ad campaign created by Mark Graham (CD, Art Director) with Josh Tavlin (CD) and John McNeil (CD) for Brill's Content: Skepticism is a Virtue.  (Permission to share provided by Barbara Gray, Head Librarian at the The Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Research Center, City University of New York (CUNY)).

Verify the facts before you publish

  • Follow the evidence, check the facts:
    • Find the source or original information/image.
    • Investigate the source's reliability by checking its digital footprint (account registration, other social media accounts, blogs).  How long have the accounts been active?
    • Cross-reference information (check information gathered by speaking to the source against the content the source has posted online).
  • Kovach & Rosenstiel in Elements of Journalism:
    • Never add anything that was not there.
    • Never deceive the audience.
    • Be transparent about your methods and motives.
    • Rely on your own original reporting.
    • Exercise humility.
  • CUNY Journalism Research Center Accuracy Checklist for Reporters (Permission to share provided by Barbara Gray, Head Librarian at the The Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Research Center, City University of New York (CUNY)).

Verify images, photos and video before publishing

Fact-Check

  • Politifact   is a fact-checking website, un by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.... Pulitzer Prize wining site run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times.  PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Times.
  • FactCheck.org  "is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania....a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases."
    • FlackCheck "Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular."
  • OpenSecrets.org "Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy."
  • Fact Check (Washington Post)"The purpose of this Web site, and an accompanying column in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local."
  • Snopes  "The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation."
  • Duke Reporters' Lab: Fact Checking  Includes a database of global fact-checking sites.
  • International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles

Social Media Verification

  • First Draft News is a group of nine media partners dedicated to helping reporters find and verify online content.  They provide online courses to train reporters using online verification tools.

Consult the Journalist's Resource  strategy guide for finding quality credible resources.  It is a great place to find resources on a variety of current topics.

Cite Resources & Avoid Plagiarism

Attribution—citing resources and avoiding plagiarism—is vital to good journalism.

These citation manuals and guides may be available in the Reserves section of the Journalism Library or online.