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Fact Checking: How to Check for Previously-Checked Facts

Fact-Checking Sites

Slightly abridged from Chapter Five of Mike Caulfield's Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

The following organizations are generally regarded as reputable fact-checking organizations focused on U.S. national news:

Respected specialty sites cover niche areas such as climate or celebrities. Here are a few examples:

There are many fact-checking sites outside the U.S. Here is a small sample:

In addition, Wikipedia can be a good source for fact-checking. A good Wikipedia article is heavily sourced. You may sometimes see warnings that an article needs more citations or or disputed. You can also click on the "talk" tab to see if there were arguments about the validity of a source what belongs in the article going on behind the scenes.

Read the Book

There are lots of suggestions and exercises for practicing your fact-checking skills in this free online book.

web literacy for student fact-checkers cover

How Do You Know if a Source is Generally Reliable?

Based loosely on indicators from the Trust Project based at a center for applied ethics at Santa Clara University.

Whether you are reading a newspaper article or a scholarly journal or book, look for these things:

  • What are their standards? Do they adhere to best practices in journalism or research? Or are they just looking for clicks and quick reactions?
  • Who are the authors and do they have training or expertise as reporters or researchers?
  • Can you easily tell what type of information it is? Is it clear whether a story is news reporting, news analysis, or an opinion piece? Can you tell if a scholarly article or a book was peer-reviewed?
  • Are the sources of information made clear in the piece you are reading?
  • Are the methods of getting the information made clear?

The next two qualities can be hard to determine.

  • How is the publication funded? This is especially important for online sites that look "newsy" but are actually representing an industry or activist group, which makes corroborating information more important.
  • Does the publication reflect an appropriate diversity of voices and approaches? This doesn't mean "showing both sides" when only one side is generally accepted (e.g. scientists generally believe humans cause global warming and that childhood vaccines do not cause autism, so respectable science journal wouldn't accept articles that oppose those positions just to be "balanced.") It does mean journalism, scholarly, and scientific organizations being mindful of marginalized communities and encouraging their professions to support inclusion in meaningful ways.

There are certain publications that have strong reputations. For example, though a large percentage of the population of the United States does not trust news media, these publications are well regarded as national news sources:

  • The New York Times
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • The Washington Post

They don't always get their facts right, but they have a reputation for trying. Local news sources may be more likely to cover local news well, but can't afford to cover national news with original reporting.

Within any scholarly or scientific field there is a staggeringly large number of publications, and they have different subject niches and varying reputations. One of the best ways of finding out which journals are considered the most important is to ask someone who is an expert in the field - such as a faculty member. There is no button you can click in a database for "best information source."

There are times you are unfamiliar with a publication. Check for an "about" statement and read laterally to see what others think of it. One handy trick is to do a search that doesn't include the source itself by adding the name of the publication and adding -site:URL.

daily caller -site:dailycaller.com

democracy now -site:democracynow.org

You'll find their YouTube and Facebook sites, but also information about them from other sources.

See Also . . .

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