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Increasing News Literacy in an Age of Fake News

Some of the headlines during the presidential election were undeniably grabbing: “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Donald Trump for president.” Untrue.

“WikiLeaks confirms Hillary sold weapons to ISIS.” Also false.

But in the golden age of fake news, what’s a reader to do to separate fact from fiction? 

“You have to be a savvy news consumer,” says Jennifer Choi, program officer for the journalism initiatives at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

“It’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole looking at a particular website.”

Choi recommends some simple tips for spotting fake news. “If it seems sensational and emotion-driven to provoke outrage, then that’s a clue,” she said. 

She also suggests something as simple as looking at the size of the font.  “You don’t expect to see all caps from reputable news sources,” she said.

Another tip: Leave the story and do a little research. “Anything that seems outrageous, get out of that source and look for it from other familiar news sources,” said Choi. “You should also think, ‘before I share it I should probably Google search it.’”

Digging deeper and checking other news outlets requires extra work, Choi says. “As a responsible consumer of information, you have to be good about your news diet,” she added. “I liken it to nutrition: Be responsible about what you consume and share.” 

News literacy advocates say that getting only one side of a story can also be problematic. “Be careful even if it aligns with your own political worldview,” Choi said. “Look farther and at other sources before you share the information.” 

Choi recommends starting with a simple Google search if you’re checking a story to see if other outlets are covering it.  

Choi also recommends the following websites to check facts:

Want more tips? Read this article or check out the News Literacy Project’s 10 questions for fake news detection.

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