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COMM 103 - Journalism and Democracy - Prof. Passariello: Fact Check Here

This guide is designed to help you get started in researching Project Censored topics and articles.

Fake News vs. Real News

Check The Facts

Check the Facts


Open your MInd!

Each of us approachs news from a point-of-view that has been formed by our backgrounds and our experiences.  Naturally, we are attracted to those stories that support the way we already perceive the world. You'll need to make a conscious effort to look at things "from the other side."

Cross-Check the facts!

Are there sources or statistics cited?  Are these verifiable?  Look up "facts" that are used to support any arguement.  Are these consistently reported across sources, both conservative and liberal. If not, they may be spin.  Look for agreed upon information. Ask yourself, can this information be checked against public record?

Ask lots of questions! 
This is just as important when we are listening to arguments that we tend to agree with , as it is when we listen to those with which we tend to disagree.

  • What is the reporter's political bias?
  • What is interviewee's political position?  
  • Who is paying for the message? 
  • Does the story present alternate points-of-view? How are these characterized? 
  • Does the interviewer present an arguement? Is the story editorial?

Consider the source!

Do the authors or speakers have known or suspected biases. This can bring credibility into question. Don't be afraid to think for yourself!

Never Assume

Never Assume



  • Never assume ideas presented in the news are complete.  
    Journalists apply the standard questions....who-what-when-where-why-how... during their investigation.  Still, bias on the part of the interviewer or the interviewee can lead to an incomplete picture. Ask yourself:  Who didn't they interview?  What other sources might fill in the details? 

  • Never assume language used is neutral
    Word choice can have a significant impact on the reader's reaction to information.  Are the words used positive or negative? Provocative or reassuring?   Consider "inheritance tax" vs. "death tax."  How does each evoke different reactions for different people? Watch for words that express emotions, opinions and value judgements such as awful, amazing, or beautiful. Sometimes a qualifier is used to express an absolute idea such as: always, could, likely, never or possibly. 

  • Never assume words mean the same thing to all people.
    While we all speak the same language, local, generational, and personal  connotations can effect how we interpret what we read.  Our understandings may not be the same as the writer or the subject's.  Read around the words into the context and tone to get a better grasp of the writer's meaning

Watch Out For

Watch Out For

Commercial Bias

News is sponsored by advertisers.  Does the news presented reflect the advertisements embedded within the media

Temporal Bias

News agencies look for "breaking stories," often relegating old news to the back page or leaving it entirely uncovered. Scan the back pages too!

Visual Bias

Including visuals will draw the reader's attention.  Do images presented evoke specific responses?  Do they prejudice the reader to view the news one way?


Good news is less exciting than news that is shocking or frightening.  Does the media exaggerate details to make a story more interesting?  Does the news agency focus only on the negative aspects of a story?

Narrative Bias

Writers will generally develop a plot line - beginning, middle, and end - complete with drama.  News, however, is rarely so tidy.  Remind yourself that stories you read in the news are "unfolding." If a story captures your attention, its best to follow that story over a period of time.

Fairness Bias

Ethical journalism is, in theory, fair.  When a controversy arises, reporters will generally attempt to get the "other side" of the story.  When a rebuttal is reported, it can seem like the media is taking one side or another.  Read carefully to determine if presentation of both arguements is neutral.

Expediency Bias

News is driven by deadlines.  Those deadlines sometimes mean that reporters will return to experts they know well and have had successful contacts with previously. This may slant news in towards the political views of these experts.

On The Media

  • AllSides
    Rates the bias of U.S. news sources from Left to Right
  • Citizen Source
    A List of Think Tanks and Policy Institutes
    "Monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases."
  • Media Matters
    Has a liberal slant.
  • Media Research Center
    Has a conservative slant.
  • On the Media
    From National Public Radio.
  • Open Secrets
    "Nonpartisan guide to money's influence on U.S. elections and public policy. 
  • Politifact
    "Rates accuracy of statements according to a "Truth-O-Meter" and the consistency of public official stances according to the "Flip-O-Meter."  Not all fact checkers claim to be non-partisan."
  • Project Vote Smart
    "Conservative and liberals work together researching the backgrounds and records of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, and biographical data.
  • State of the Media
    From the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, an annual report focusing on the "health and status of American journalism".
  • Snopes
    Discusses stories of unknown or questionable origin.

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