Skip to Main Content

News Sources

A guide to news sources, both in print and online, available at Paul Meek Library.

Evaluating News Sources

Research Tools:  Where you retrieve information can indicate the reliability of a resource. The Library offers several news related databases (check out the Current News and Historical News Sources tabs), which contain actual news sources. While this can provide a more focused search option than the open web (where you can get conspiracy theories and sites masquerading as news sources), you still need to double check your sources by determining their biases (if any) and utilizing multiple sources to get a fuller picture of your research topic.

Source:  Use some of the fact-checking resources below to research your source. Does the newspaper you're using have a specific bias? Beyond that, check out the newspaper/source itself (this can be as simple as visiting the About page of an online news source). What's the funding source for this newspaper? Are there methodologies or checks in place to maintain an unbiased approach? Does the source clearly label editorial pieces? Are reporters indicated for articles? If it is a biased source, does the newspaper or author/reporter make that clear?  Are they transparent about any bias? Does the news site indicate a mission or approach to the news?

Author/Reporters: Can you find information on an author or reporter? What else have they published recently? Are they a real person? Do they approach a topic with inflammatory language (not terminology or language you don't like, but language intentionally meant to incite emotional reactions)? Or is the language as unbiased as possible and factual? Remember, editorial pieces are going to sound much different than factual articles. And you may encounter topics or language that makes you uncomfortable, even in factual articles. A reporter/article can challenge your ideas and still be factual and unbiased (see the Check Your Bias tab).

When in Doubt:  If you find yourself unsure of the bias or validity of a source, contact a librarian for help. Part of a librarian's training is in determining valid and reliable resources.

The simplest thing to do with online news sources is to check the links (if any) given in an article. Do the links work? Are the sources at those links actually valid, reliable, biased, etc? If it's a print source or provides any type of citation, you may need to look up an article's supporting sources in one of our library databases or even on the open web. Again, you'll want to double check those sources. Being published in print doesn't necessarily mean it's more reliable than an electronic source. Always evaluate your sources!

Timeliness: Check the dates on the supporting sources. Do those dates make sense given the topic and publication date of the article you're using? For example, if you're reading a news article on nutrition published in 2018, and it's providing supporting sources from thirty years ago, ask yourself why? Can you find more recent sources on the specific topic? Do the newer sources contradict the older sources (have there been new discoveries)? Is that the last time this topic was written about? Older sources don't indicate an article is inaccurate, but it can raise a red flag depending on the topic. *When it comes to doing historical research, the date of an article and its resources my need to be limited to a certain range to find relevant sources to your research. 

Multiple Sources: Does the article provide multiple supporting sources? Can you find other sources for the topic outside the sources provided by the author/reporter? It can be easy to find one article that supports a specific opinion, even if the bulk of evidence supports an opposing view.  And one source doesn't necessarily make a case for an opinion. Research the topic and determine if you're finding evidence that supports the article/author. And don't just stop with the first resource you find - take the time to really investigate.

These are types of sources that can sometimes be confused for news, especially with the rapid sharing available with social media. Each bolded term is also a link to the Library's Research Starter article on that topic. 

SatireThese sources may use humor, irony, exaggeration, hyperbole, and/or false information. Satirical sources can sometimes be informative, but they are also meant for social commentary and humor or entertainment. Examples include "the Onion", "The Borowitz Report", and for television: "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report".

Conspiracy Theory:  Sources based on conspiracy theories usually put forth an argument that a group is secretly responsible for an event (especially a negative or harmful event). Humans are really good at seeing patterns, even in things that are actually coincidences.

PropagandaThese are sources that use words and images to promote a specific opinion or agenda. Examples from the U.S. include Uncle Sam (a US Army enlistment tool - most notably in the World Wars) and Rosie the Riveter (designed to encourage women to work in factories during World War II). 

PseudoscienceAlso referred to as Junk Science, sources promoting pseudoscience can be found easily on the internet. Pseudoscience also makes numerous appearances in pop culture and fictional television and books. What differentiates pseudoscience from science that turns out to be wrong is that supporters of pseudoscience refuse to accept evidence that contradicts their ideas. One example of pseudoscience is the idea, while debunked many times by scientists and medical researchers, that autism or other developmental disorders are caused by vaccines.

Clickbait: Online sources designed with headlines that make readers want to follow the link to the story indicated by the headline. This online traffic can increase ad revenue for a website. These sources often don't have content indicated by the headline, leaving readers frustrated and feeling misled.

Fake NewsFake news isn't news you disagree with!  These sources are actually intentionally false sources of information. They can include elements of other incorrect sources, such as propaganda or conspiracy theories. These sources are often presented as legitimate news sources, but the definition can be expanded to include legitimate satire. Examples of nonsatirical fake news sources include the National Enquirer

Additional Fact Checking

The following is a list of fact-checking sources that may be useful as you locate and need to evaluate news sources. Take a look at the methodology and funding sections if you're unsure of a fact-checking sites reliability. These are provided as useful tools in uncovering bias and with the intent of giving researchers multiple viewpoints. As with most research, be sure to utilize multiple resources as a way to double check your findings.