Stop the Press: Spotting ‘Fake’ News

by rbeckley



“You won’t believe what happens next!!”

The term “fake news” has been thrown around a lot recently. Reports have surfaced that Russia, a foreign government, intervened in the US Presidential Campaign with media meant to influence the election. The current US President has labeled traditionally reputable news outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, NBC, CBS, and ABC as ‘fake news.” If this term is used enough, it becomes part of our common vernacular. This can become dangerous if the public does not understand the definition of the word or term.

“Fake News” used to mean exactly what it sounds like, lies made up by people posing as news. The current US President, according to NPR, “casts all unfavorable news coverage as fake news. In one tweet, he even went so far as to say that ‘any negative polls are fake news.’ And many of his supporters have picked up and run with his new definition.”  This is a dangerous pattern, and the best way to avoid being misled by any persuasive influence is through information and self-education.

So how do you staff informed? How do you weed out the “fake news” from the truth? There are several helpful resources and tips available for you online. Here is a sampling: NPR, USA Today, and factcheck.org. For an additional read, check out this article by Buzzfeed News article on how hyperpartisan news gets made.

News sites have a standard look and feel to them, but this is easily copied by fake news sites. You’ll want to look out for other indicators when spotting fake news:

  • Pay attention to the URL. Sites with endings such as .com.co should tip you off. abcnews.com is a trusted site, but abcnews.com.co is not, and the similar appearance is meant to trick you.
  • If it’s real, other news sites are likely reporting it. A good practice is to do a quick google search, and see if the same “news” is also being reported by other reputable news sites. This will save you a lot of embarrassment if you share an article on social media without first double-checking.
  • How is the writing? How does it make you feel? Caps lock and multiple exclamation points don’t have a place in a professional news agency. Does it make you mad? False reports also target emotions.
  • It might be satire. Sites like The Onion are meant to be satirical and not misleading, but many people have mistaken Onion articles are legitimate.
  • Check your biases. This one is really hard. It means honest self-reflection on things that you may not like about yourself. Acccording to factcheck.org, “confirmation bias  leads people to put more stock in information that confirms their beliefs and discount information that doesn’t. But the next time you’re automatically appalled at some Facebook post concerning, say, a politician you oppose, take a moment to check it out.”


icon of RebeccaAre you interested in keeping up with the news and current events? The Boston Public Library has subscriptions to newspapers that you can read in the library or online.

*”Stop the Press” features current events posts by Rebecca, the Teen Librarian at the Grove Hall Branch, on the first Tuesday of every