5.1 What to Do: Be Information Literate

Sarah Gibbs

Remember these headlines? Complete the activity to find out which news is fake!

If you didn’t correctly identify the facts and fiction, you’re not alone. Numerous studies indicate that our ability to identify fake news on the basis of “gut instinct” is very poor. We tend to need additional techniques and tools in order to root out disinformation.

Common Sense Media Ratings & Reviews. (2017, January 31). 5 ways to spot fake news [Video]. YouTube, https://youtu.be/g2AdkNH-kWA

While we encounter too much information on a daily basis to critically assess every piece, for important issues, remember to subject stories and sources to scrutiny on a few points:


  • Accuracy (Does the story clearly identify the sources of its information? Is it free of typographical errors like spelling and grammatical mistakes?)
  • Authority (Is the source of the story a well-recognized news outlet or periodical? Are its credentials and funding sources openly identified and verifiable?)
  • Purpose (Is the story click bait? Does the headline reflect its actual content?)


The number of fact-checking organizations in existence has grown significantly in the past few years. According to the Duke Reporters’ Lab, between 2019 and 2020, the number of active fact-checkers grew 50%; 300 organizations around the globe now regularly verify the accuracy of the news (Stencel and Luther, 2020). Some of the best-known services that fact check the media are Snopes (https://www.snopes.com/), the Washington Post Fact Checker (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/), Full Fact (https://fullfact.org/), and Fact Check (https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/). You can visit the organizations’ websites to see whether they’ve assessed stories you’ve encountered.


When in doubt, cross reference! If you’re uncertain of the accuracy of information available in a particular news story, try to find the information in other sources, especially those that you know are reputable and that adhere to high standards of journalism.


Handy Cheat Sheet

Handout: Legito-Meter (https://static.pbslearningmedia.org/media/media_files/33c5f7f1-59b8-4c93-a5a3-8219764ee9fc/61a395c0-a59a-4a7c-a333-d66bb5d10e54.pdf). PBS