Cutting through misleading content
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Source: Gecko and Fly
More than 2 million posts are shared on LinkedIn daily. Millions of articles are published every single day in all languages on news outlets, company websites, blogs, and more. At the same time, sharing opinions has never been easier. So, how should you judge content to determine whether it's good, trustworthy, and fact-based? How do you avoid misleading news and articles?
I read on average 40 to 60 articles each week. Here is how I analyze the quality and validity of content and how I steer away from deceiving articles, incomplete perspectives, and fake news.
1. It all starts with the source
If you want to determine whether you can trust an article, you need to start with where you found it. So, if you are reading an article that mentions “This piece originally appeared in…” head for the source. Is it reliable? Is it known for quality journalism? Has this particular outlet previously written about the topic? When it comes to figures, graphs, and data, which institute published the initial research?
2. Are other reliable outlets writing about the topic?
This is important because when there is more coverage about a topic, there are more references to trace so you can inspect the validity of the article. Are all articles quoting the same person? Can the statement be traced back to a press release/ a video announcement/ an interview etc.?
3. How many perspectives are presented?
This is one aspect that you might not always be very conscious of, but it makes a huge difference. Articles shouldn’t necessarily steer you into one direction or another - leave that for opinion pieces. When reading articles with too many one-sided arguments and statements, you may start wondering (and rightfully so!) whether that particular journalist tried to cover the topic objectively.
Going even deeper:
4. Whose interests are at stake?
When reading an article with high stakes such as an investigative piece unraveling industry issues, set some time aside to analyze whether the article protects someone's interests or presents them in an oddly positive way. Additionally, to avoid misunderstandings, you could also research if the content is sponsored through partnerships or investments. If the article is paid there should be such a disclaimer on the page, but sometimes you may have to investigate the respective news outlet a bit more.
Recently, the Guardian announced it would sever ties with all advertising investors involved with fossil fuels. They did this because they do not want to support these companies and because they don't want their readers to believe that fossil fuel interests are shaping the newsroom's articles. This is not something readers think often about because it belongs to the unseen backstage of journalism, but hopefully, it can become a topic that is discussed more actively and consciously.
5. Who wrote the piece?
Similarly to the point above, the interests of the author may also influence the content produced. Who is the author? What is their position within the editorial team (staffer or collaborator)? Is there any conflict of interest when they address certain themes?
I hope these tips helped you be better prepared next time you read content or share an article.