Here’s another great idea from ProPublica health care reporter Marshall Allen. As the recently popular conspiracy video Plandemic was being shared and questioned by folks in his own circles, Allen wrote a column about the questions he asks to evaluate misinformation. (We also just shared tips on how to take extra care when writing about conspiracy theories.) In the column, Allen includes a checklist that he’s shared with friends to help them interrogate content (and note in the column he invites that users be skeptical of news published from ProPublica, too).
Here’s the series of questions he poses for users to ask when consuming content:
Imagine a world where every person in your audience used a checklist like this each time they watched a video on Facebook, heard something on the radio or read a news article. Think about how much better equipped your audience would be to sort out what news is credible, and which news is not.
- Is the presentation one-sided?
- Is there an independent pursuit of the truth?
- Is there a careful adherence to the facts?
- Are those accused allowed to respond?
- Are all sources named and cited, and if not, is the reason explained?
- Does the work claim some secret knowledge?
While we can’t control the spread of bad or inaccurate news, what we can do is give our users basic knowledge about the news gathering process to help empower them to be smarter about their own news consumption. The more your audience understands how to spot fact-based journalism, the more likely they are to turn to organizations like yours as a trusted news source.
TRY THIS: Write a social post or column with a checklist of things your audience can look for when they see a social post or an article being shared they feel unsure about. Here are a few to start with from Trusting News Director Joy Mayer: First, check the sources. See if stated information is being cited and where it’s being cited from. Second, look to see when the story was published to make sure it’s not outdated news. And third, if it seems unlikely or hard to believe, try Googling it to see if you can corroborate the information from other sources. In the post, encourage your audience to be skeptics about the news they see, and remind them that not all news is created equal. Give them knowledge and tips to understand how the process works. Not only will this help your readers be better at consuming news, it will also highlight how your organization is committed to getting the facts right.
— Mollie Muchna, Trusting News project assistant
FREE ELECTIONS TRAINING: Trusting News is partnering with Hearken on Election SOS, a large-scale training program to get journalists ready for the 2020 election. Monthlong classes will be offered until the fall. Learn more and apply at ElectionSOS.org.