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Six tips for how to spot (and stop) fake news

Join the Support Real News campaign

Do you know where your news is coming from?

That’s the question at the center of the latest campaign to help improve news literacy among American citizens.

The News Media Alliance’s ‘Support Real News’ campaign aims to raise awareness about the important role of news produced by reputable, trustworthy news organizations, said News Media Alliance President and CEO David Chavern.

The ‘Support Real News’ campaign wants the public to support real news outlets – like ICIJ – by subscribing to and reading trusted news sources produced by trained journalists.

ICIJ was an original partner in the campaign, which started earlier this year, and is proud to be involved in the second-phase that launches on Tuesday.

ICIJ’s cross-border investigations, such as the Panama Papers, are just one example of the important role journalists play in democratic society, said ICIJ director Gerard Ryle.

“In Pakistan, for example, it has been nearly 18 months since the Panama Papers was first published and we’re still seeing the effect there. The Prime Minister had to stand down and is under continued scrutiny.

“There have also been waves of legislative change, ongoing official investigations and important public discussions based on the work of ICIJ and its partners around the world.”

Importantly, ICIJ has a rigorous fact-checking policy so you can ensure all the work published by ICIJ can be trusted, he said.

News Media Alliance innovation vice president, Michael MaLoon, said the digitization of news meant it was much harder for readers to tell the difference between real news and fake news.

“That’s why it’s important to know the red flags to look out for that may indicate a story is not real.”

How do you spot a fake news story? 

Here are a few red flags to watch for:

Too crazy to be true? Don’t trust it.
“Is the story so outrageous you can't believe it? Maybe you shouldn't. Respect the voice inside you that says, ‘What?’" writes NPR’s Steve Inskeep.

Are known/reputable news organizations not reporting on the same story
Sometimes this is because of media bias, but generally there should always be more than one organization reporting on an event, writes Merrimack College assistant professor of communication and media Melissa Zimdars.

Does it pass the CRAAP test?
It's a handy acronym for remembering how to ask yourself: is this source full of, uh, craap?

  • Currency: When was it published?
  • Relevance: Is it created for the right audience?
  • Authority: Who wrote it?
  • Accuracy: Is the evidence backed up with data?
  • Purpose: Why was this created and is there an underlying bias?


CRAAP Test - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Are you asked to rely on one killer factoid?
“If a hacked document "proves" an implausible conspiracy, look for the context that shows what the document really means. As for photos and video, use Ronald Reagan's old slogan: trust but verify,” writes NPR’s Steve Inskeep.

Use the Snopes’ field guide to fake news sites
This list of the “most frequent (and unapologetic) hoax purveyors cluttering up newsfeeds everywhere” will make sure you’re not getting caught out.

Invoke the three S approach: Stop, Search and Subscribe!
The Alliance has got a handy three word slogan to make sure you’re reading real news. 

  • Stop: Before you share that story… stop and think about the headline: does it tell you everything you need to know?
  • Search: Do you know this publication? How about the author? Google is your friend - do some quick searches to see what you can find.
  • Subscribe: “The easiest way to become media literate is by subscribing to trustworthy, quality journalism,” writes Kirsten Ballard. (So make sure you’re signed up to ICIJ!)

This is just a quick taste of the tips, resources and tools that the Alliance has collated. Check the full list out here. And tune in to the News Media Alliance's Facebook Live panel at 2 p.m. E.T. today (Tuesday, Oct. 3) to find out more about how to combat fake news.

Read more about the impact from ICIJ's investigations, and find out how you can support ICIJ's work

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