Welcome to the Breaking the News Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of Breaking the News by Robin Terry Brown on October 13th, blogs across the web are featuring original content from Breaking the News, plus 5 chances to win a hardcover copy!
The Truth Tool Kit & How to be an Expert Fact-Checker
by Robin Terry Brown
It’s easy to fall for falsehoods, but you can outsmart the fakers. Next time a story makes you raise an eyebrow, break out this tool kit. Asking these questions will make you an expert at telling truth from fiction.
WHAT IS THE SOURCE?
Look beyond who shared the story with you, because sometimes even friends and family accidentally share false stories. The best way to find out if a post is accurate is to look at the source of the information. If you recognize the publication it comes from and have found it to be trustworthy in the past, or if it’s the web page of a major newspaper, magazine, or TV news network, it’s generally reliable. If not, follow the tips below to keep digging.
IS THE STORY OUTRAGEOUS?
Does the story sound too wild to believe? Is it so far-fetched that you can’t imagine it even happened? Is it too good to be true? Then it may not have happened at all. Read all the way through to the end of the article, and check to see if reliable news sites are reporting the same story.
IS IT FULL OF TYPOS?
If you see a lot of misspelled words, incorrect grammar, or other typos—that’s a sure sign that it is not from a legitimate news source. Look at other sources to check it out.
DOES IT LOOK LIKE A SUPERMARKET TABLOID?
Does the headline appear in all capital letters, or do you see wacky-looking pictures of famous people—perhaps their appearance is much different from what you have seen in the past? Are there aliens in the photo? Are there a lot of exclamation marks in the headlines? If so, that’s a warning that a story shouldn’t be trusted.
DO YOU FEEL ANGRY OR SHOCKED?
Made-up stories are designed to make you feel strong emotions so you will click and share them instantly. When you are overwhelmed with emotion, it’s easy not to notice that an article is missing a lot of facts. Next time a headline makes you mad before you’ve even read the first line of the story, take a deep breath and look to see if the sources of the information are in the story.
ARE EXPERTS QUOTED?
Legitimate news stories will attribute all facts and quotes. This means articles will include where information comes from and identify the people quoted. If an anonymous, or unnamed, source is quoted, the reporter will explain why the person is not identified. Think twice if an article includes no sources or only has experts who speak to one side of the story.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE STORY?
If it seems like the article is written with the intent to either harm or promote a certain group of people, that’s a sign that you are reading propaganda rather than news.
IS IT BREAKING NEWS?
As natural disasters or other breaking news stories unfold, journalists report the news as it happens—especially on live TV. Journalists do the best they can, but the very first information they report could be inaccurate. So if you hear phrases like “We are getting reports that …,” or “We have not been able to independently verify …,” these facts may turn out not to be true. Check back later for the full story.
ARE POP-UPS CAUSING PROBLEMS?
Many websites have pop-up ads. Annoying? Yes! But not necessarily a sign that anything is wrong with a website. If you see ads with bright, flashing colors or a spinning wheel that pops up in the middle of the page, consider exiting or shutting down your computer right away. It could be a scam, or it might give your computer a virus.
If you use the truth tool kit and are still uncertain about whether a story is accurate, pretend you’re a detective and keep digging. Where do you go next? Professional fact-checkers—who make sure stories are correct before they are published—say that looking outside the story is the real secret to success. Use these truth-telling tips to tell if a story is for real.
SEARCH THE EXACT HEADLINE.
Type the exact same title of the story into a search engine. If the story isn’t real, websites may pop up right away that call it out as fake.
LOOK FOR OTHER ARTICLES ON THE SAME TOPIC.
Big news stories will be covered by most major news organizations. If a story seems hard to believe, and it only pops up in one or two places, that’s a warning sign that something’s wrong.
CHECK THE DATE.
Is this a new story, or did it happen a long time ago? If it isn’t current, the information may be incorrect or just out of date.
SEE IF IT’S A KNOWN HOAX.
Many websites are dedicated to snuffing out incorrect stories and urban legends(myths that everyone thinks are true). If a story sounds suspicious, ask an adult to help you look it up on a site that specializes in finding hoaxes, such as Snopes.com, PolitiFact.com, FactCheck.org, or Hoax-Slayer.net.
DOUBLE-CHECK THE EXPERTS.
Search the experts quoted in the story to learn more about the organizations they represent. Are the experts qualified to speak about the topic? Do the organizations they work for represent a certain point of view? And if so, are experts with differing points of view included in the story? If the article is one-sided, that’s a sign of potentially biased reporting.
GO STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE.
A reliable news story should say where all the facts came from. Search the internet to look for the organizations behind the facts. Do they have a particular bias? For example, if an organization that represents peanut growers is behind a study about the health benefits of peanut butter, you know the goal is to sell more peanut butter.
Many social media sites flag the real accounts of famous people or well-known organizations. Look for check marks, icons, or even special emojis next to the account names that show they have been verified. Some fake social media accounts will try to trick people with similar marks elsewhere on the page. If it’s not right next to the account name, it’s probably a phony.
Social media is designed to keep you on the site. If you think something’s fishy about a story, leave the social media site and look up the story on a search engine to look for other sources. Also try searching in a new browser or clearing your history, so your search history can’t follow you.
BE A SEARCH ENGINE GENIUS.
As you read earlier, the first websites that pop up in internet searches are often ads. Sometimes these are marked as ads; sometimes they aren’t. Before you click, scan at least the first two pages of results and read the few lines of description underneath each link. Click on the website of an organization that you recognize or that seems most expert on the subject you are researching.
Blog Tour Schedule:
November 2nd – Bookhounds
November 3rd – Word Spelunking
November 4th – Always in the Middle
November 5th – From the Mixed-Up Files
November 6th – Feed Your Fiction Addiction
“Robin Terry Brown’s ‘Breaking the News,’ written in consultation with several journalism luminaries, is laid out the way magazines used to be, with captivating images, bite-size fact-filled blurbs and intuitive design. “Breaking the News” urges young people to leave their social media feeds and “read reliable news and information from many different sources.”
―The New York Times
“[Breaking the News] provides a sharp-looking survey that examines the history of news-how it began, how it evolved, and what consumers of all ages must consider before accepting a truth as the truth. Cool bits of history, funny hoaxes, and the scary reality of propaganda are packed in simple bites easy to absorb. Excellent design and a clear narrative help readers navigate the vast and fast-changing concept of news.”
―Kirkus STARRED REVIEW
Headlines leap out at us from mobile phones, TV screens, computers, newspapers, and everywhere we turn. Technology has opened up exciting new ways to tell interesting stories, but how much of it is news … and how much is just noise? This refreshing and up-to-date media literacy book gives kids the tools they need to distinguish what is fact from what is fiction so that they can make smart choices about what to believe.
Topics cover a broad range, from defining freedom of speech, the journalists’ code of ethics, the dangers of propaganda, and the future of news.
Packed with profiles of influential journalists, fun facts, and iconic photographs, this ultimate guide to the information age will get kids thinking about their relationship and responsibility to media.
About the Author: ROBIN TERRY BROWN graduated from the master’s program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a passion for writing, editing, and getting the facts straight. She carried this passion throughout her 17-year career as a senior editor with National Geographic. Brown currently lives with her husband in northern Virginia, where she works as a writer, editor, and truth-seeker.
SUSAN GOLDBERG, contributor, is an award-winning journalist, editorial director of National Geographic Partners, and editor in chief of National Geographic magazine. Prior to National Geographic, Goldberg was an executive editor at Bloomberg News in Washington, D.C. She has also held posts at several news organizations, including The Plain Dealer, San Jose Mercury News, USA Today, the Detroit Free Press, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In 2017, Washingtonian magazine named Goldberg one of Washington, D.C.’s most powerful women.
- One (1) winner will receive a hardcover copy of Breaking the News
- Check out the other four stops for more chances to win
- US/Can only
- Ends 11/15 at 11:59pm ET