4 Ways to Tell if Information is Real or Fake: Advice from a Former Journalist

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Photo by Aditya Doshi,, https://www.flickr.com/photos/avdoshi/8612921803

When I was a daily newspaper reporter, I always had to navigate through multiple versions of a story before I learned what really happened.

We have a saying in journalism. It goes, “There are three sides to every story: side one, side two, and the Truth.”

The Truth usually falls somewhere between the first two sides, and when I reported the Truth, both sides frequently accused me of bias. That’s how I knew I’d done my job.

In today’s age of information overflow, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are reading multiple stories and don’t know what to believe. This is causing rampant fear, confusion, and possibly poor decision-making.

When I shared some of the truth-finding strategies I used as a journalist with a dear friend after we discussed the Plandemic movie, she encouraged me to share my tips with the world. “Not many people know this stuff, Shari,” she told me. “Not everyone has a journalism degree, and I think these tips could really help a lot of people in today’s environment.”

So here I am, in hopes that I can help YOU navigate through the waves of information (and misinformation), thus landing on the Truth for yourself. Here are some of the basic building blocks that journalists use when investigating a story and getting down to the bottom of it:

1) Cross-Validation with Multiple Sources

Information should always be validated with a minimum of three independent sources to confirm its validity. As a journalist, you can never go with just one person’s story or perspective, no matter how viable it seems. You need to follow up and interview at least two more sources, check records or documents, and see if everything else backs up the story from your first source.

2) Attribution from Reputable, Primary Sources

Today, the moment I read an article, column, or blog post–or watch a video–where information is stated without citing a reputable and primary source, my radar goes off. THIS MIGHT BE FAKE!

In order to avoid slander and libel lawsuits, reporters must cite their sources. Otherwise, anyone can make any claim and it would be considered truth. Additionally, the sources must be:

  • Reputable. This means you cannot cite a psychic when making claims about a medical condition or the state of the economy. Instead, you would cite a doctor or an economist.
  • Primary. This means you cannot cite another article as your source, or a friend of the cousin who experienced the wrongdoing; the information needs to come directly from the person or entity.

3) Libel — The Accused are Given a Chance to Comment

How often have you read an article from Reuters or the Associated Press where it says, “_____ could not be reached for comment”? Reporters do this to avoid a libel lawsuit. They give the person or entity being accused of wrongdoing the opportunity to comment publicly before running the story. This is a common practice to remain within the bounds of law and avoid defamation, and any reputable news organization will follow it.

4) An Ulterior Motive or Agenda

People will try and use the media to push an agenda. Gee, ya don’t say?! But by this, I mean sometimes, a person has a beef with another person or entity, and his/her motivation for contacting the media is to “get back” at someone or something else (this is different than a legitimate whistleblower). Other times, a public relations representative is trying to sway public opinion in favor of his/her company, or a public policy that would benefit the company (lobbyists, anyone?).

As a reporter, I always had to be wary of someone’s motivation for contacting me with a potential story. This is also why cross-validation with multiple sources is so important in a balanced and well-researched news article.

The Bottom Line

I hope these basic journalism tips help you determine what’s correct and incorrect from all the information floating around the Internet and social media these days.

Remember: the intentional spread of misinformation can be just as dangerous as censorship.

(Shameless plug here: that’s a theme in my book!)

Don’t let yourself become a victim of misinformation. Keep your head on straight. I always tell people that facts drive journalism, while emotions drive propaganda.

If you found this helpful, I urge you to please share it with your friends and family!

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*Shari Lopatin is a former award-winning journalist, mass communications professional, and author of “The Apollo Illusion,” a science fiction dystopia about a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology. 

 

Would You Help Me Decide Whether to Open an Online, Used Bookstore?

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Should I open an online, used bookstore via Amazon? Help me decide, fellow readers and writers!

Happy Wednesday fellow readers, bloggers, and writers! I have a question to ask you.

I’ve recently tossed around the idea of opening an online, used bookstore via Amazon to go along with my own writing and publishing. I would carry used books from classics to recent bestsellers, and the hope would be to make pricing competitive. However, I’m trying to determine if the quest is worth my time.

Would you help me by taking one minute to answer three quick questions via the survey I developed about opening an online bookstore?

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Your anonymous feedback will help me make the final decision! And I always figure: who better to ask than other lovers of the literary scene? 🙂 Thank you so much for your time and help. Oh, and feel free to pass this survey along to your other reader and writer friends!

Announcing my Debut Novel, ‘The Apollo Illusion’

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It’s official, and I’m crazy excited! In 2018, my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, will hit the virtual bookshelves. A stimulating dystopian suspense for young adults and millennials, The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world.

Want an Advanced Reader Copy?

I’m currently looking for early readers willing to post a review on Amazon, Nook, Apple, and/or Smashwords in exchange for a FREE advanced copy. Interested? I want to hear from you! Email me at shari.lopatin@gmail.com with your full name, email address, and whether you prefer Kindle, Nook, PDF, or print (if print, please include your mailing address).

What is The Apollo Illusion About?

The year is 2150, and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden.

When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.

Don’t Miss Launch! Join ‘The Readers Club’

Over the coming months, I’ll be releasing more details about The Apollo Illusion as we approach the launch, including sneak peeks and offering giveaways. Don’t miss out! Join “The Readers Club” email list and stay in-the-know.

News and New Media: Check Out this Hot Project!

I first learned about The Daily Source because they followed me on Twitter. Just another wannabe online news outlet, I initially thought.

Boy, was I wrong!

After checking out their follower count (20,000+), I decided to give them a follow-back. A day later, I received a direct message from this outlet:

“Thanks for following. Our nonprofit’s team of top journalists scours the Net 24/7 to bring you a feast of top items: http://dailysource.org,” it read.

Non-profit team of top journalists, I thought. I wonder who these people are?

So, I did what any curious, former newspaper reporter would do. I clicked on their link and began researching. Simply put, this is no wannabe online news outlet.

Here’s what I found about The Daily Source:

  • Their editors come from backgrounds at the New York Times, the BBC, NPR, and CNN, just to name a few.
  • Their mission “is to provide high quality news and information from leading sources across the Internet to help the public more effectively utilize their time, money and power to benefit themselves, our country and our world.”
  • They outline the growing problems in today’s media, including lack of public confidence, growing inaccuracies, sensationalism, and poor coverage of important stories.
  • They use new media to combat these issues, and combine today’s online tools with the traditional ethics of good reporting and journalism.

Yea, I almost had an orgasm when I read this. Think of The Daily Source as the NPR of the Internet.

Now, they don’t necessarily write the articles. They seek out the most relevant, accurate, important, and balanced articles across the Web and publish them on their site. They also use platforms like Twitter to disseminate their news.

And because their editors come from such traditional and respected backgrounds, you know you can trust their judgement.

How you can help

Besides the obvious approach (money donations), The Daily Source needs its followers to help spread the word. It also needs you to conduct your news searches through its site, www.dailysource.org.

Why? I’ll let them explain: “This will generate revenue for us, as Yahoo! donates to our nonprofit every time you search via the box on our site.”

I thought this was a cause well-worth a blog post today. Will you help with this great idea? Find The Daily Source on Twitter as well.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How have you noticed the new landscape of social media affecting the traditional realms of journalism? Is it making the mass media better, or worse?