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SLS1101 Kauffmann Mueller: News Literacy

This guide provides resources for students enrolled in Laura Kauffmann's Student Success course (SLS1101).

What kinds of fake news exist?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits. (mostly or entirely fabricated)

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information (intentional misrepresentation for clicks)

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions (might be accurate but the title is alarming for clicks)

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news (written as fictional to be funny/criticize/satirize)

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.


Journalistic Standards

The Society for Professional Journalists declares these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.

1. Seek truth and report it

2. Minimize harm

3. Act independently

4. Be accountable and transparent


Reputable news outlets will print or air retractions and corrections for all mistakes they've reported.

Old News

In an effort to get breaking news to their audiences right away, journalists sometimes report inaccuracies because the full story has not been revealed yet. Make sure you have the latest information on a story and not the sparse facts or speculations that often come out as a story develops.

Political Bias

Every person, which means every journalist, has a political bias. "Good" journalists keep their political bias in check and report the news objectively. Most news outlets have a political bias you can detect if you read or watch their content over a period of time. Check the media bias chart to see where a particular news outlet falls on the political spectrum.


Even the most reputable newspapers and news programs include opinion pieces and editorials where a journalist, the editor, a guest, or a reader offer their personal opinion on a matter. These articles are clearly marked in newspapers. Be careful that you are using a news article rather than an opinion article.


Some news outlets are not really news outlets at all - they are satire. Satire uses exaggeration to critique something in our society. The Onion is an example of a popular satirical site. Sometimes reputable newspapers will run satire pieces. These should be clearly marked humor or satire, but sometimes it's difficult to tell.

Fact Checking Links