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Fake News Vs. Real News

Decription, links, and resources for distinguishing real from fake news and avoiding alternative facts

What To Look For in a Credible News Story

Newswriters follow a formula to produce clear news stories quickly. An objective news story will include:

  • Objective language that avoids loaded terms

  • Three sources representing pro, con and neutral viewpoints.

  • Sources’ opinions are attributed or are in quotes.

  • The Five Ws; who, what, when, where and why

 

The first paragraph in a news story is often called “an AP (Associated Press) lead,” 25 words or fewer that cover the “Five Ws” that describe an event. In any situation, supplying who, what, when, where and why will give readers a full idea of the event, as these lead paragraphs from large news organizations do.

 

Los Angeles Times

University of California regents (who and where) will vote (what) this week (when) on the first tuition increase in six years (what) as the nation’s premier public research university system struggles to maintain its quality amid surging enrollment and reduced levels of state support (why).

 

New York Times

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (who) made his first address (what) to the United Nations General Assembly (where) on Tuesday (when), he spoke before not only an enthusiastic audience, but one whose agenda largely mirrored his own (why).

 

Associated Press

First published in 1949, Orwell's (who) classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of "newspeak" topped the best-seller list (what) of Amazon (where) as of Tuesday evening (when). (Why will be answered in the following paragraphs or perhaps be raised as a question.)

Bias

An objective news story on a controversial topic contains sources representing both sides of the controversy, as well as a neutral source, such as a research organization or university scholar or other expert. These are are called pro, con and neutral viewpoints.

 

A meteorologist told a crowd inside a local grocery store Tuesday that it was raining, while a nearby sailor described the weather as a “high fog.” The Weather Channel characterized precipitation as “partial showers.”

 

Opinions of sources are contained between quotes or are followed by attribution to that source.

  • “It’s raining,” meteorologist Lakshmi Patel stated.

  • Meteorologist Lakshmi Patel noted that it was raining today.

 

This PDF can help you write a news lead.

News Literacy

Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy (Part of the School of Journalism).

“News Literacy can help students of all ages recognize the differences between fact and rumor, news and advertising, news and opinion, and bias and fairness.” *

Loaded Terms Vs. Neutral Terms

Loaded terms are words that make the reader question the credibility of the source. Objective news stories will use terms that may seem boring or colorless, but avoid showing the source in a biased light.

 

For instance, using the term “claimed” - considered a loaded word - instead of “said” - a neutral word - throws doubt on the source’s statement.

 

 

 

Loaded terms Neutral words
Alleged Said
Asserted Stated
Avowed Told
Claimed Related
Declared Announced

 

 

Footnotes

*All descriptive quotes provided by the webpage.

Reliable Newspapers

These recent lead paragraphs from news stories in these large circulation newspapers demonstrate an objective tone.

 

Los Angeles Times

University of California regents will vote this week on the first tuition increase in six years as the nation’s premier public research university system struggles to maintain its quality amid surging enrollment and reduced levels of state support.

 

New York Times

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada made his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, he spoke before not only an enthusiastic audience, but one whose agenda largely mirrored his own.

 

Associated Press

First published in 1949, Orwell's classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of "newspeak" topped the best-seller list of Amazon as of Tuesday evening.