Information is an important part of our society. People depend on it to guide them through a complex world. This free flow of information eventually led to a free press in many parts of the world. Advances in media technology have made words and images more powerful and widespread than ever. Smartphones and social media have become quick and easy tools to receive and share news and information. These tools have even made it possible for anyone with a device to gather and circulate “news.”

This media environment makes it important for us to be able to recognize reliable information. True information gives us the facts to guide our decisions and actions. In addition to informing, news can also divert. This means it can focus our attention on something we are interested in as a kind of escape. An example would be news about subjects we seek out for enjoyment, such as entertainment, celebrities or sports.

A free press is important in a democratic society. It allows citizens to speak freely to issues in the country and criticize the country’s leaders without fear. But, it can also lead to news that is false.

Today, information moves around us in many forms, every hour of every day. Even if we do not seek out news on our own, we often receive it anyway, instantly, on our phones. So how can we manage this mountain of information so that fake news does not mislead us?

Here at Quadrant MSL, We believe this requires news literacy. News literacy is the ability to use critical thinking skills to judge news reports. Are they credible? Can you rely on the reports to be true?

The need for news literacy is possibly greater now than ever before. Learning this important skill can give us the power to take full control of our own search for the truth.

In our country today where propaganda and rumor munging thrives, here are 5 simple steps to decipher between real and fake news.

  1. CONSIDER THE SOURCE: Not all news sources are reliable or trustworthy. Many companies claim to be news sources but are really entertainment blogs or websites driven by advertising money, clicks and website traffic. As a personal consumer of news, it is your responsibility to evaluate the news sources you wish to cite. You should click away from the story to investigate the platform carrying the news. Is it an Instagram page of a friend, a celebrity blogger, or twitter feed of a politician? More often than not, the source of the news is often a great indication as to the veracity of the news. For instance, the BBC will be a more credible source of news than
  2. READ BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story? People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper. Since users aren’t paying as much attention to internal content, the strength and popularity of a piece sometimes comes down to the strength of its headline. In a read article, headlines are one of the most powerful contributors to performance, and in a non-read article, it’s the only contributor to performance. As a result, headlines have become almost like articles in and of themselves. According to a study done in 2016, 59% of all links shared on social media aren’t actually clicked. This means most people share news based on the headline alone.
  3. CHECK THE DATE: How recently was this information published/posted? Can you find a publication date? This is a very important point to note, as some news reports might have become obsolete and there could be more recent stats or reports on the issue. When news breaks, some sites decide to post old news about the happening. But reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events.
  4. CHECK THE AUTHOR:  Who wrote the information – are they an expert or knowledgeable in the field or industry? If it is a health related news, did a Doctor or Nurse write it? If it is on Politics, did a Lawyer or Political contributor write it? You should do a quick vetting of the author, find out if they’re real, and determine if they’re credible.
  5. BACKUP SOURCES: Is the information supported by evidence? Can it be confirmed by other sources? Chances are if the news is credible, it’ll provide enough evidence, most of the questions you might have will be answered in the post. Also, there will be other platforms that will broadcast the very same news. Look out for these.

The next time you come across any news article and you’re tempted to hit the share button, make sure you authenticate the news before you do. You don’t want to be part of the chain of people peddling fake news…