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Fake News vs. Real News: How to spot fake news


Identifying fake news

Lesende (Reading) by Gerhard Richter. Painting of woman reading a newspaper
If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, be concerned about the reliability of a source.

  • Can you verify this news story? Is it available on other outlets? Are different versions of the story published by different newspapers and writers?

  • Can you verify that the site you’re reading this article on is both reputable and representing itself in an accurate way?

  • Can you find information about the author, and can you confirm that the author is a journalist? Have they worked for other newspapers or are they an expert in the area they’re writing about?

  • Does the author quote reputable sourced and provide details to back up their story?

  • Is the article well written and free from grammatical mistakes?

  • Is the article written in a calm, controlled, and professional manner?

  • If it attempts to shock you or illicit an emotional response rather than provide facts, or if it uses exclamations marks and question marks, it’s probably not reliable.


Illustration. Lesende (Reading)  by Gerhard Richter, found through Artstor.

Types of fake news

Pinochio nose goes through a newspaper

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.


Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.


Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information.


Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.


Satirical and comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as genuine news.

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.


Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

*From Indiana University East’s Fake News Libguide


Adjunct Faculty Librarian

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Cynthia McCarthy
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Know the bias of the publication or website you are reading

Although people may disagree with how bias in these publications and news outlets are characterized, this illustration shows how both liberal and conservative viewpoints range from moderate to radical to irresponsible.