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Media Literacy Guide: Evaluating the News

Determining what is fake news is necessary and can be difficult. This research guide's purpose is to explain steps for finding the facts, how to use one's judgment and give examples for clarification.

What is this page for?

This page provides some checklists to use as quick tools to evaluate news articles


The SMART Check is particularly helpful when evaluating news stories.  Determine if your news source is SMART before believing what is reported.  

S     Source:

  • Where did the story come from? 
  • Is it a reputable news source?

M    Motive  

  • Why do they say so?  Do they have a special interest or bias that may cause them to slant information

A   Authority

  • Who is the author of the story?
  • What are their credentials?

R   Review

  • Go over the story carefully
  • Does it make sense?

T   Two-source test

  • Check for other sources about the story.
  • Does the two-source test confirm or contradict the story? 

SMART comes from the University of Washington Libraries

Understanding Bias in the news

Organizations tracking media bias

The CRAAP Test

The CRAP test is a checklist of questions to ask when evaluating any source. Not all the items need to be checked but one or two from each should help you decide the credibility of a source.

C Currency: the timeliness of information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

R Reliability: consistently verifiable and credible information

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?  Is is balanced?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

A Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic? What identifies them as an expert on that topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

P Purpose: the reason the information exists   

  • Why was this source created? To sell, inform, persuade?
  • Who is the intended audience? Experts or new-comers? Students or educators?
  • Check language, content of page for bias. Are there any red flags?
  • If advertising is present on a page, is it separate or related to the informational content?
  • Check to see what the point of view is of the author or the sponsoring organization:
    • Look for “About the Author” or “About Us” links
    • Shorten the URL to find out about hosting site
    • Search for author/organization in search engines like Google
    • Search for author/organization in periodical databases like EBSCO and ProQuest

SIFT method for evaluating information in a digital world

News Evaluation Games

It can be difficult to determine what is trustworthy news and what is not. Try these games to see how you do:

  • Factitious Game  - test your ability to discern real news from false
  • The Fakeout Game - Your social media feed has been infected by false information. Your job is to learn the skills of verification, so you can sort fact from fiction — in the game, and in real life.

What Makes a News Story Fake?

  1. It can't be verified   A fake news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the site's domain or many not contain information pertinent to the article topic.

  2. Fake news appeals to emotion: Fake news plays on your feelings - it makes you angry or happy or scared. This is to ensure you won't do anything as pesky as fact-checking.

  3. Authors usually aren't experts: Most authors aren't even journalists, but paid trolls.

  4. It can't be found anywhere else: If you look up the main idea of a fake news article, you might not find any other news outlet (real or not) reporting on the issue.

  5. Fake news comes from fake sites: Did your article come from or These and a host of other URLs are fake news sites.

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