As humans, we love being “in the know” and sharing what we know — or think we know. What has become tricky, however, is managing the dissemination of misinformation, disinformation and the concept of “fake news.”
In a 24-7 news cycle that dominates cable news and social media, it has become harder than ever to identify if something is factual and if a source that’s being shared is credible.
But it’s not impossible, says Joy Mayer, a former journalist and educator who is now the director of Trusting News, an organization that works with journalists to increase trust among their readers and demonstrate credibility to increasingly skeptical media consumers.
Tips for fact-checking information from Trusting News director Joy Mayer:
- Check the source of what you see and read in addition to the context it might be being told. “Know whether their goal is to inform, entertain or persuade you,” says Mayer.
- Do a quick search to see who else may be reporting the news you’re reading. “See who else is reporting it and if it’s being widely reported,” says Mayer.
- Try to keep your emotions in check when reading breaking news. “A lot of times, it’s easier to consume information that prompts us to feel strong emotions,” says Mayer. “Take a breath and double check that. It could be a sign that the content is there more to provoke a response than it is to inform.”
Mayer says it can start with understanding that misinformation and disinformation are not interchangeable terms.
“Disinformation indicates a desire to mislead. Misinformation is something that is wrong for various reasons – carelessness, a lack of knowledge about something,” says Mayer.
Mayer says we must “increase our level of vigilance about what we consume, trust and especially what we share and pass on.”
Click the audio player to hear the full conversation with Trusting News director Joy Mayer about the role of “fake news” in 2021: