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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Evaluating Breaking News

On the Media has a list of guidelines for evaluating breaking news:
1. In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.
2. Don't trust anonymous sources.
3. Don't trust stories that cite another news outlet as the source of the information.
4. There's almost never a second shooter.
5. Pay attention to the language the media uses.
Whether you realize it or not, the language the media uses tells you how reliable it is. Here's a helpful glossary:
  • "We are receiving reports" - sources are claiming something has happened, but it has not been confirmed.
  • "We are seeking confirmation" - the news outlet is confident, but still can't confirm.
  • "We can confirm" - information has come from multiple sources, and the news outlet feels confident that it can claim something as an actual fact.
  • "We have learned" - how a news outlet declares it has a scoop. As Andy Carvin says "on the one hand, it could mean that they’re the first ones to confirm something. Or they’re going out on a limb and reporting something that no one else has felt comfortable reporting yet."
6. Look for news outlets close to the incident.
7. Compare multiple sources.
8. Big news brings out the fakers. And Photoshoppers.
9. Beware reflexive retweeting. Some of this is on you.

Also see the "airline edition."