Opinion & Editorial

Deciphering credible news in the new year

I’ve been fortunate enough to speak at a few public venues recently, and a consistent question comes up each time: “How can we know what is credible, trustworthy reporting?” 

It’s harder than ever to draw that distinction. 

Large corporations that own daily newspapers for the most part are operated with efficiency and earnings as the top goals, not local news reporting. Getting it right – from the facts, the context, the story display, nuanced editing – are all expenditures often cut from the reporting process today. 

Add in the element of social media and advanced technology – including Artificial Intelligence that can closely resemble human reporting – are incredible challenges in seeking out the truth in today’s media environment. 

There is no silver bullet or easy way to find credible information, unfortunately. It will take effort on the readers’ part to ensure they are finding the right sources of information – particularly online. 

The world is transforming at exponential speed. It’s not easy to navigate through the media ecosystem today; it likely will change in a few weeks or days. 

Of course, a hyper-local newspaper committed to journalistic ethics and ideals with local reporters speaking to local sources, is reporting closest to your neighborhood. The Chronicle is not owned by some statewide or nationwide business. Our reporters live in the communities we cover. That makes a difference. 

When you’re reading online material, here are a few tools to help you find the best information:

• Be skeptical about what you’re reading. This isn’t cynicism; it’s critical thinking about the content and who created it. 

• Look into who the sources are, and don’t take “experts” at face value. They can be on a payroll somewhere down the line, and have a specific agenda to promote. 

• It’s smart to get a second opinion from your doctor; the same principle applies here. Find additional stories that either challenge or flesh out details, particularly if they are about polarizing issues. Don’t put all of your information eggs in one basket. 

• In cases where someone is trying to manipulate or publish false news, check on a few things: Is the URL – the website address – appropriate? Photos can be especially triggering, and published without proper context or labeling. Even funky formatting online might be a yellow flag around the content.

The Texas A&M University library has curated a page on its website with multiple online tools to help determine the viability of the reporting – visit it at tamu.libguides.com/ … Under the category of Research Guides, you can find “Understanding and spotting fake news” among other topics. Factcheck.org is another site that helps identify real vs. fake news. And the site offers the CRAAP test: Evaluate sources for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose).

Personally, I’m looking for subject-matter experts who can shed light on the facts or provide additional context on a situation. I’m not necessarily looking for a publication – it’s the individuals sharing expertise and on-ground reporting from the people affected that I find most trustworthy. 

Recently I joined Regina Lawrence and a few others on a KLCC radio show exploring the plight of local news. She is an associate dean and research director at the University of Oregon, and helps lead the Agora Journalism Center with director Andrew DeVigal. 

According to its mission statement: “The center was formed in 2014 with the foundational belief that the health of democracy and journalism are inextricably linked. Since then, the center has been a critical champion for the idea that professional journalism must become more participatory and collaborative with the public if journalism is to meaningfully improve communities’ information health and earn the public’s trust in local news media.

I encourage readers to check out more on this at agorajournalism.center.

To find the truth we’re seeking in news coverage, it means readers must learn the difference between agenda-driven narratives and real reporting. It might even mean that readers must engage with local journalists to help portray the news in a solution-oriented, objectively fair way. 

It’s not impossible to find credible news online beyond your hyper-local paper; it can be done –  with a little effort, critical thinking, and engaging with credible local journalists. 

Noel Nash is the owner and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at [email protected].



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