How reliable is your source? Start by asking these questions

August 18, 2016

Credible fact-checking is built on reliable sources. To evaluate a source’s reliability, ask these questions about the organization behind the sources, data or reports:

  • Who founded the organization?
  • Why?
  • What is that person’s background?
  • Who funds the organization?
  • Do the funders have a political or ideological mission?
  • If there is a board of directors, who is on it?
  • What organizations or industries do they represent?
  • Do the directors seem to have similar backgrounds?
  • Is the organization nonprofit and nonpartisan?
  • In the U.S., is the organization listed as a 501(c)(3) or some other designation? You can find the definitions of those terms on the ProPublica website.
  • Check the language on the “About Us” page. (It’s a red flag if there is no “About Us” page.)
  • Is it partisan? Does it favor a particular “side” of an issue? The Annenberg Institute’s “Critical Thinking Resources” lists the political leanings of various organizations and offers comments on each organization’s value as a resource.

Taken from Fact-checking: How to Improve Your Skills in Accountability Journalism, a self-directed course by Alexios Mantzarlis and Jane Elizabeth at Poynter NewsU.

Take the full course

Have you missed a Coffee Break Course? Here’s our complete lineup. Or follow along at #coffeebreakcourse.