Skip to main content

FAKE NEWS vs. REAL NEWS: How to Determine the Reliability of Sources

Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's true. Here are some tips for reading news on the web, from Ann Grandmaison at Northern Essex Community College.

Fake News


One of the things the Presidential Election Campaign of 2016 may be remembered for is the proliferation of fake news stories. Viral news hoaxes have been around for many years but 2016 seems to be the year they exploded into the consciousness of the American public.Evaluating information has never been more important.

The weekend after the Presidential Election, Melissa Zimdars, a professor at Merrimack College, learned that the top result returned by a Google search about the election's popular vote was to an article claiming that Trump carried the popular vote. Not true. Hillary Clinton had over one million more votes than Trump.  This article was on an untrustworthy news site and caused Professor Zimdars to compile suggestions on how to spot a fake news site.

Her suggestions are:

  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

  • Watch out for websites that end in “” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.

  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).

  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.

  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

In a Huffington Post story entitled How to Recognize a Fake News Story dated Nov. 22, 2016, the author lists nine things to look for:

Media Literacy Activities!

Fake News Detection Game - Factitious

Play this game to test your fake news judgment. Earn points while testing your ability to detect fake news, and receive tips and feedback to improve your skills!

Same Story, Different Perspectives - AllSides 

Compare articles‚Äč on current issues from right, center, and left leaning news sources. Discuss how the same stories are portrayed across different media outlets.

Fact or Opinion Quiz - Pew Research Center

Test your ability to classify news statements as either factual or opinion and see how you compare to participants of a Pew Research survey of over 5000 U.S. adults.

News Lit Quiz - News Literacy Project

Which is Legit? Test your ability to recognize and distinguish "fake news" sites from those of legitimate, standards-based news organizations.

Political Typology Quiz - Pew Research Center

Take this quiz to see where you fit in the political typology as compared to participants in a Pew Research survey of over 5000 U.S. adults.