Anybody can create a website and make it look official. And it doesn’t take a journalism degree to write a story that looks like it might maybe get into the paper. Some people are quick to throw the “fake news” epithet at anything that doesn’t support their worldview, but in reality, there are ways to see if some piece of news is real or fake. I’ll evaluate six articles using the CRAP test – currency, reliability, authority, and purpose. If you read something that makes you angry, give it the ‘ole CRAP test.
Real News & Reliable Sites:
“Trump just handed the fate of ‘dreamers’ over to an extraordinarily dysfunctional congress” – Washington Post
Currency: It was written today. Simply checking the date is important. Reliability: The Washington Post is considered to be one of the most reliable news sources. Additionally, the website provides the reporter’s name and a link to email her. Authority: The Post is one of the foremost authorities on political reporting. By simply looking at the author’s previous articles, we can see that she has a lot of experience. Purpose: This article is an editorial, and comes from a specific point of view. But it’s clear through the way it’s written that it’s an editorial. It doesn’t pose as objective journalism with hidden messages.
The Arizona Historical Society
Currency: This website is updated frequently. They maintain a current list of upcoming events, and a fairly fresh set of current press releases. Reliability: If anybody was writing a paper on a topic pertaining to Arizona history, the Arizona Historical Society would be a reliable place to start. They’re recognized as an important historical agency within the state. Authority: They have plenty of authority within the museum and history community – there’s no real arguing that. Purpose: There aren’t any ads on this page, and it has a .org domain – they don’t exist to sell you something. They’re not making money off this website, so the information can be considered to be more reliable. Their purpose is to educate.
Currency: This website is run by the Mayo Clinic and has up-to-date medical information. Reliability: I can’t think of a more reliable or authoritative voice on medicine than the Mayo Clinic. Notice that they use a .org domain, which is usually a signifier of reliability and authority. Purpose: The Mayo Clinic exists to promote health and patient advocacy. Their website reflects that. Fake News & Unreliable Sites:
“Trump Ends DACA, But Gives Congress Window to Save it” –Democratic Moms http://democraticmoms.com/trump-ends-daca-but-gives-congress-window-to-save-it/ There are a few red flags to notice on this page. Look at the author’s name. “Ernest E” isn’t a full name, and, when you click on it, you’re led to a page full of articles he wrote. There’s no contact information or photograph of Ernest E, so there’s no way for us to know who this person is. When you read the headlines, you’ll notice biased language in them. “Mark Zuckerberg Just SLAMMED Trump…” lacks the objectivity of real news. A more objective way to write this could have been “criticizes” or “speaks out against” – plus, the all capital letters gives it an opinionated tone, despite being presented as real news.
Look at the title – it’s awfully close to a respected political site, Politico. They’re hoping you misspell Politico and end up on their page. The most recent article on the page, dated for Sept. 3, 2017, is titled “Donald Trump Promises To Stop ‘The Crazy Muslims From North Korea.” Well, that caught my attention – red flag number one. In a similar vein to the Democratic Moms article, I followed the author’s name, but there’s no contact info, bio, or photo; just a list of articles he’s written. When I opened the article, I got a virus warning – another red flag. The article’s only named source is President Trump himself. I searched some of the quotes the article attributed to him, and was unable to find some of the more outrageous ones. The only other quote is attributed to “one expert.”
This is subtle, but certain aspects of the site make me question its reliability. The article I read about SSRIs and SNRIs doesn’t have an immediately recognizable date. Its author, Max Cusimano, has a biography available on the site. His degree is in film, and his interests include art, science, nature, psychology, and philosophy. Which is great, but this is an article about prescription medicines. Wouldn’t it be more reliable if it was written by an MD or someone with a Ph.D. in psychology? eHow can be a great resource, but keep in mind that, like Wikipedia, you don’t always know the qualifications of whoever writes it.