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Journalism - Evaluating News and Information: Websites

This guide offers background on types of information and tips for analyzing sources in order to become an active information consumer and responsible journalist

CRAAP Test

Currency
When was the information published or posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
Are the links functional?

Relevance
The importance of the information for your needs
Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
Who is the intended audience?
Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority
The source of the information.
Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations?
Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
              examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy
The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose:
The reason the information exists
What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Meriam Library - California State University – Chico
https://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf

Steps for Analyzing Websites

OpenSources Steps for Analyzing Websites by Melissa Zimdars

Step 1: Title/Domain Analysis

If words like “.wordpress” or “blogger” are in the domain that usually signifies it’s a personal blog rather than a news source. If slight variations of well known websites appear, such as “.com.co,” this is usually a sign that the website is fake version of a source. However, remember that foreign reputable news organizations may have these country-specific domains.

 

Step 2: About Us Analysis

I usually google every title/domain name/anyone listed in the “About Us” section to see if anyone has previously reported on the website (snopes, hoax-slayer, politifact, factcheck.org, etc.) or whether it has a wikipedia page or something similar detailing its background. This is useful for identifying and correctly interpreting lesser known and/or new websites that may be on the up-and-up, such as satirical sources or websites that are explicit about their political orientation. 

Then I look for information about the credentials and backgrounds of affiliated writers (is it a content mill or do they pay their writers?), editors, publishers, and domain owners (who.is etc.). It’s also useful to see if the website has a “Legal” or “Disclaimer” section. Many satirical websites disclose this information in those sections.

A total lack of About Us, Contact Us, or any other type of identifying information may mean that the website is not a legitimate source of information.

 

Step 3: Source Analysis

Does the website mention/link to a study or source? Look up the source/study. Do you think it’s being accurately reflected and reported? Are officials being cited? Can you confirm their quotes elsewhere? Some media literacy and critical scholars call this triangulation: Verify details, facts, quotes, etc. with multiple sources. 

 

Step 4: Writing Style Analysis

Does the website follow AP Style Guide or another style guide? Typically, lack of style guide may indicate an overall lack of editing or fact-checking process. Does it frequently use ALL CAPS in headlines and/or body text? Does the headline or body of the text use words like WOW!, SLAUGHTER!, DESTROY!? This stylistic practice and these types of hyperbolic word choices are often used to create emotional responses with readers that is avoided in more traditional styles of journalism.

 

Step 5:  Aesthetic Analysis

Like the style-guide, many fake and questionable news sites utilize very bad design. Usually this means screens are cluttered with text and heavy-handed photoshopping or born digital images.

 

Step 6: Social Media Analysis

Look up the website on Facebook. Do the headlines and posts rely on sensational or provocative language-- aka clickbait-- in order to attract attention and encourage likes, clickthroughs, and shares? Do the headlines and social media descriptions match or accurately reflect the content of the linked article? (this step isn’t particularly good at helping us find fake news, but it can help us identify other misleading news sources)

 

By considering all of these areas of information we can determine which category or categories a website may occupy, although all categorizations are by necessity open to discussion and revision.

Resources

Fake News Sites - AmericanPresident.co

Misleading URLs

You can also be mislead by a URL that makes sense until you dissect the URL. 

Examples:

  • Whitehouse.org
  • DonaldTrumpNews.co
  • Politicot.com

The .co domain is actually registered in the country of Colombia, which can be confusing for someone who leaves off the "m" in .com. 

Just because a URL ends in .org, does not necessarily indicate that it is a trustworthy source. 

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