The first news expert is ..... you. You start with the ability, motivation, and skills to find out for yourself what news is, whether it's factual or not, and whether you believe it to be accurate.
When you need help with finding news, news resources, corroborating evidence, or simply more information, your librarian is your partner in the goal of filtering information. The librarians on the side of this guide can be your first contacts, but any librarian at Vanderbilt can help you find what you're looking for or direct you to another librarian for further detailed help.
School Journalism.org defines news literacy as
the acquisition of 21st-century, critical-thinking skills for analyzing and judging the reliability of news and information, differentiating among facts, opinions and assertions in the media we consume, create and distribute
Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy points out that
The Digital Age poses four serious information literacy challenges for civil society:
- The amount of information we are flooded with daily makes it difficult to sort out what's reliable.
- New technologies to create and share information make it easy to create content that only appears authoritative and then to spread it virally.
- The conflict between speed and accuracy has been exacerbated by Digital Age demands for delivering information as fast as possible, but accelerating that process increases the chance it will be wrong.
- Humans prefer information that supports our beliefs, and the Internet and social media make it much easier for us to select only the information that supports our ideas, reinforcing rather than challenging them.
It's not always easy to define what news is. One way to do it is to make lists of criteria that news outlets and organizations use to decide what news they publish. A good recent list is from a research paper by Tony Harcup and Deirdre O'Neill:
Criteria for Selection of News Stories
|Exclusivity||Stories generated by, or available first to, the news outlet as a result of interviews, letters, investigations, surveys, polls|
|Bad news||Stories with particularly negative overtones such as death, injury, defeat, loss|
|Conflict||Stories about conflict (controversies, arguments, splits, strikes, fights, insurrections, warfare)|
|Surprise||Stories with an element of surprise, contrast and/or the unusual|
|Audiovisual||Stories that have arresting photographs, video, audio and/or which can be illustrated with infographics|
|Shareability||Stories likely to generate sharing and comments via Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media|
|Entertainment||Soft stories (sex, show business, sports, lighter human interest, animals, or offering opportunities for humorous treatment/lists/etc.)|
|Drama||Stories about unfolding drama (escapes, accidents, searches, sieges, rescues, battles, court cases)|
|Follow-up||Stories about subjects already in the news|
|Power elite||Stories about powerful individuals, organizations, institutions, or corporations|
|Relevance||Stories about groups perceived to be influential with, or culturally or historically familiar to, the audience|
|Magnitude||Stories significant enough in large numbers of people involved or in potential impact, or involving a degree of extreme behavior or occurrence|
|Celebrity||Stories about famous or soon-to-be-famous people|
|Good news||Stories with positive overtones (recoveries, breakthroughs, cures, wins, celebrations)|
|News outlet's agenda||Stories that set or fit the news outlet's own agenda, whether ideological, commercial, or as part of a specific campaign|
Source: Harcup, Tony, and Deirdre O’Neill. “What Is News? News Values Revisited, Again.” Journalism Studies, vol. 18, no. 12, 2016, pp. 1470–1488, doi:10.1080/1461670x.2016.1150193