Skip to Main Content

The News is Everywhere: How to Spot the Good, the Bad, and the Make Believe

Information is everywhere, and it can be hard to keep up with, let alone, ensure the news you are receiving is accurate. This guide is designed to encourage readers to examine the information they receive and feel empowered to determine its validity.


This guide was created by:

Sandy Hancock

MLIS, Business Librarian

Pikes Peak Library District


Tammy Sayles

MLIS, Adult Education Director

Pikes Peak Library District


Melanie Wehrle

Former Senior Outreach Librarian

Pikes Peak Library District


We hope you have found it to be informative.

Special Thanks

We would like to thank the following for sharing their resources with us.

KT Lowe Indiana University East

Vanessa Otero

Programming Librarian


Libraries worldwide have made a commitment to help their users and patrons improve their understanding of all kinds of literacies, including textual literacy, digital literacy, civic literacy, and information/media literacy. This last type of literacy is the focus of this LibGuide. See more about the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) commitment to literacy initiatives here.

At the time of this writing, anyone with an internet connection can create content that can be shared and go viral faster than the time it takes to type this sentence. The internet does not require any of its content to be true or verifiable. Nothing on the internet is guaranteed to be a true statement, a logical claim, a commonly-held belief, or—now that AI-produced content exists online—even produced by a human. Also, this content often has no editors, no gatekeepers, and no referees.

All of that said, internet-based content is not categorically bad, untrue, invalid, or wrong. Because of the openness of the internet, content creators and consumers can connect and exchange ideas online more freely than ever before and in real time.

So what can a savvy searcher do to determine what online content is good, what is bad, and what is just plain ugly?

While there are no shortcuts to checking claims or facts found everywhere, there are some strategies and resources that we can share with you to make your search for information smoother. Click the blue boxes at the left of your screen (on a computer) or at the top of your screen (on mobile devices) to dive deeper. 

A brief glossary of some key terms regarding searching can be found below (under Some Key Terms for the Savvy Searcher). Because of the speed at which the online world changes, this list is by no means complete.

How to Choose Your News

What's wrong with fake news?

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

  1. You deserve the truth.  You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and help perpetuate myths. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
  4. Real news can benefit you.  If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely.  If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs.  Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.

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.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

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

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.

Some Key Terms for the Savvy Searcher

Bias is an attitude that always favors one way of feeling or acting over any other. 

Brown University offered another way to define bias:

Favoring of or against one person, group or thing compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Biases can be conscious or unconscious ― explicit or implicit. In addition, bias can be institutionalized into policies, practices and structures.

Clickbait is an online link which makes outrageous and often untrue statements in order to make readers click on that link. 

Disinformation is false information which is deliberately spread in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.

Misinformation is unreliable or inaccurate information. It is often spread accidentally by those who believe it to be true.

A parody is a deliberate and exaggerated imitation, created to be humorous. It is not intended to be taken as literal or authentic opinion.

Satire uses humor, exaggeration, and irony to show weaknesses or vices in others. Satire is often directed particularly at politics or other modern-day topics. It is not intended to be taken as literal or authentic opinion.