Is it legit? Five steps for vetting a news source

Grades: 4-6, 7-9, 10-12+

Many sources compete for attention online, including partisan blogs and bogus sites posing as legitimate news organizations. It can be tough to know what information to trust. So what does “credibility” look like, and how can you recognize it?

We partnered with SmartNews, a news app for mobile devices, to bring you five steps for vetting news sources. The steps outlined in this infographic can help you cut through the noise and learn how to evaluate sources for signs of credibility – as well as for red flags that signal a source should be avoided:

  1. Do a quick search: Conducting a simple search for information about a news source is a key first step in evaluating its credibility.
  2. Look for standards: Reputable news organizations aspire to ethical guidelines and standards, including fairness, accuracy and independence.
  3. Check for transparency: Quality news sources should be transparent, not only about their reporting practices (see above), but also about their ownership and funding.
  4. Examine how errors are handled: Credible news sources are accountable for mistakes and correct them. Do you see evidence that this source corrects or clarifies errors?
  5. Assess news coverage: An important step in vetting sources is taking time to read and assess several news articles.

In addition to these five steps, this infographic includes a list of “trust busters” that indicate you should immediately look elsewhere for credible news. They include:

  • False or untrue content
  • Clickbait tactics
  • Lack of balance
  • Manipulated images or videos
  • State-run or state-sponsored propaganda
  • Dangerous, offensive and malicious content

Remember: Credible sources aren’t perfect, but information from them is much more likely to be accurate.

With so much information circulating online, it may feel overwhelming to sort credible sources from bogus sites. But being able to recognize some general signs of credibility — and steering clear of sources with red flags — can go a long way toward helping you find more accurate information.

Be sure also to check out this quiz to put your source-vetting skills to the test!

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