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You Do the Fact Check: Getting started...


Open your mind!

Each of us approach news from a point-of-view that has been formed by our backgrounds and our experiences.  Naturally, we are attracted to those stories that support the way we already perceive the world. You'll need to make a conscious effort to look at things "from the other side."



Ask lots of questions!

This is just as important when we are listening to arguements that we tend to agree with , as it is when we listen to those with which we tend to disagree.

  • What is the reporter's political bias?
  • What is interviewee's political position?  
  • Who is paying for the message? 
  • Does the story present alternate points-of-view? How are these characterized? 
  • Does the interviewer present an arguement? Is the story editorial?

Cross-check the facts!

Are there sources or statistics cited?  Are these verifiable?  Look up "facts" that are used to support any arguement.  Are these consistently reported across sources, both conservative and liberal. If not, they may be spin.  Look for agreed upon information. Ask yourself, can this information be checked against public record?



Consider the source.  

Do the authors or speakers have known or suspected biases. This can bring credibility into question. Don't be afraid to think for yourself!

Project Vote Smart
In this organization, conservative and liberals work together researching the backgrounds and records of of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, and biographical data. Great info on every current politician and candidate.  This is a must watch during an election year!
A nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for American voters, FactCheck is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  The team monitors the factual accuracy of what is claimed by U.S. political figures through their ads, debates, speeches, and interviews.  Check out their sister sites: |

A project of the Tampa Bay Times, this site has won awards for its research and reporting on the statements made by political leaders throughout the country.  The site rates accuracy of statements according to a "Truth-O-Meter" and the consistency of public official stances according to the "Flip-O-Meter." 

Not all fact checkers claim to be non-partisan.   Media Recearch Center has a well known conservative slant, while  Media Matters has a liberal slant.  Check them both and compare the facts.

Polling Report is an independent, nonpartisan resource on trends in American public opinion.  You can also check in with Rasmussen Reports, which collects, publishes, and distributes public opinion polling information.
With a mission of "promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straight forward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format," this site allows readers to comparitively consider both sides of an issue. Also take time to check out SIRS Issues Research, a paid subscription available to MGHS students and staff designed especially to help you consider both sides of an issue.

OpenSecrets is a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group tracking money in U.S. politics and it's effect on elections and public policy.  Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the organization "aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more transparent and responsive government."



  • Never assume ideas presented in the news are complete.  
    Journalists apply the standard questions....who-what-when-where-why-how... during their investigation.  Still, bias on the part of the interviewer or the interviewee can lead to an incomplete picture. Ask yourself:  Who didn't they interview?  What other sources might fill in the details? 

  • Never assume language used is neutral.
    Word choice can have a significant impact on the reader's reaction to information.  Are the words used positive or negative? Provocative or reassuring?   Consider "inheritance tax" vs. "death tax."  How does each evoke different reactions for different people?

  • Never assume words mean the same thing to all people.
    While we all speak the same language, local, generational, and personal connotations can effect how we interpret what we read.  Our understandings may not be the same as the writer or the subject's.  Read around the words into the context and tone to get a better grasp of the writer's meaning.

Watch out for...

Commercial Bias
News is sponsored by advertisers.  Does the news presented reflect the advertisements embedded within the media?

Temporal Bias
News agencies look for "breaking stories," often relegating old news to the back page or leaving it entirely uncovered. Scan the back pages too!

Visual Bias
Including visuals will draw the reader's attention.  Do images presented evoke specific responses?  Do they prejudice the reader to view the news one way?

Good news is less exciting than news that is shocking or frightening.  Does the media exaggerate details to make a story more interesting?  Does the news agency focus only on the negative aspects of a story?

Narrative Bias
Writers will generally develop a plotline - beginning, middle, and end - complete with drama.  News, however, is rarely so tidy.  Remind yourself that stories you read in the news are "unfolding." If a story captures your attention, its best to follow that story over a period of time.

Fairness Bias
Ethical journalism is, in theory, fair.  When a controversy arises, reporters will generally attempt to get the "other side" of the story.  When a rebuttal is reported, it can seem like the media is taking one side or another.  Read carefully to determine if presentation of both arguements is neutral.

Expediency Bias
News is driven by deadlines.  Those deadlines sometimes mean that reporters will return to experts they know well and have had successful contacts with previously. This may slant news in towards the political views of these experts.


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