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Six questions that will tell you what media to trust

1. Type: What kind of content is this?
Recognize first what kind of content you're looking at. Is it a news story or an opinion piece? Is it an ad or produced by a company? Is it a reaction to someone else's content? If the story or graphic you're looking at came in a tweet or through a friend, note the name of the organization and look it up online. From where does the organization get its money? Does the content have an obvious political slant?

2. Source: Who and what are the sources cited and why should you believe them?
Recognize the level of knowledge. How close it is to being firsthand? How do the authors know this information? Are they experts in their fields? Are they an official source? If the source is a study, ask who produced it and how was the study done? Does the source have a bias?

3. Evidence: What's the evidence and how was it vetted?
Evidence is the proof that the sources offer for what they know. But even respectable sources may guess sometimes. So, identify the evidence that any source is offering. Trust material that offers more evidence and is more specific. What did the author do to verify this evidence?

4. Interpretation: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?
Most media content offers a thesis or main idea. Does this point make sense, and are the conclusions supported by the evidence? People may wrongly assume that because two events occurred, the first one must have caused the second one. In fact, it could be a coincidence. Or the second event could have been caused by something else. Test conclusions by asking if the same evidence might be used to draw a different interpretation. The content should note information that is unknown, unanswered, or unclear.

5. Completeness: What's missing?
Most content should lead to more questions. An important step in being an informed consumer is asking yourself what you don't understand about a subject. Is important information missing from the story without an explanation why?

6. Knowledge: Are you learning what you need?
Think about the media you consumed yesterday. What did you learn about and how did you learn it? What subjects do you hear people talking about that you wished you understood better? Where could you go to learn? Could you explain a particular story to someone else?


Source: Six questions that will tell you what media to trust
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