Evaluating news sites: Credible or Clickbait?

Submitted by Candice Benjes-Small on November 17th, 2016
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Short Description: 

As people rely more and more on social media to get their news, the filter bubble becomes increasingly problematic. In this workshop, students learn how to evaluate whether a news site is reliable. This group activity takes about 30 minutes and can be used for many different audiences by adjusting the examples used.

Learning Outcomes: 

• Students will be able to identify characteristics of credible news sources.
• Students will critically examine news sources to determine credibility.

Information Literacy concepts: 
Individual or Group: 
Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

The workshop opened with an ice breaker, having students brainstorm three things they look for when deciding whether a news Website is believable. They did a quick pair-and-share, and then I recorded what they said on the white board. Next, I broke them into teams of two and asked each to look at two Websites and complete a worksheet. In our lesson, Source A was a Reuters news article and Source B was a Bipartisan Report article. Both are on the same story, although Source A correctly identifies it as happening in January 2016 while B plays it as if it just happened (October 2016). The worksheet included questions which showed similarities as well as differences. It took about 15-20 minutes for the students to complete the worksheets; then we discussed the answers. Talking points: Source A is a Reuters news report, while Source B is from a muckraking site. Both are on the same story, although Source A correctly identifies it as happening in January 2016 while B plays it as if it just happened (published Oct 2016).
Discuss which criteria made a difference in judging the credibility- and which weren’t important- notably, the domain name, the advertising presence,a nd the date were not significant.
Note that it’s best when the reporter has done the reporting themselves, not just repeating other media outlets’ reports.
Would people on the left be more willing to believe the bipartisan report because it fits into their worldview? We need to be careful to avoid confirmation bias: believing a source is legit because we want to believe what it says.
Opinion journalism is a good and valuable resource but it’s different from NEWS. With opinion journalism, you need to verify the facts in the story. In opinion pieces, they are making an argument and you need to analyze it.

After the discussion, I had students brainstorm three criteria they would now use to evaluate a news source. They shared out, and then I collected them for a quick assessment later.

Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

Teaching Tips: After pairing up the students, have one look at Source A, while the other looks at Source B, and then compare the two to answer the worksheet questions. To find other sample articles, check out http://mediabiasfactcheck.com and Melissa Zimdars's list of unreliable news sites: http://tinyurl.com/j9tldck
Potential Pitfalls: When selecting an article, choose one that is controversial but not inflammatory to your audience

Suggested Citation: 
Benjes-Small, Candice. "Evaluating news sites: Credible or Clickbait?." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2016. https://www.projectcora.org/assignment/evaluating-news-sites-credible-or-clickbait.