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Information and Media Literacy: How to Spot the Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Ugly

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

Real News and Real Media

All media outlets and individuals may not agree on an exact definition of real news or real media, but real news and real media have specific qualities:

  • Real news and media include online or print articles, statistics, social media posts, images/infographics, or other formats.
    • Real news and media can be created by organizations or individuals.
  • Real news and media follow codes of ethics (see the Journalistic Codes of Ethics and Standards tab).
  • Real news and media keep information within its original context.
    • Real news and media do not remove or reorganize words or statistics to make a desired point.
    • Real news and media do not use altered videos, photographs, or images.
  • Real news and media acknowledge any previously published errors as soon as those errors are discovered.
  • Real news and media list credible and verifiable sources, which are the only sources from which they take their information.

One of the ways in which a news source can show it is authentic and responsible is by adhering to a publicly-accessible code of ethics or standards. A sample of various codes, mission statements, and ethics handbooks from journalism organizations are listed below.


Source: "Webinar Recording | What does it mean to be 'news-literate'?" by News Literacy Project:" Jan. 27, 2023: "In this webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the news literacy concepts and skills that students need in order to be reliably informed, such as recognizing the difference between news and other types of information, including opinion and propaganda. We will use the standards of quality journalism to identify credible news sources and common types of misinformation." (description from News Literacy Project YouTube website)

Some Key Terms for the Savvy Searcher

term definition source
bias a) an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : PREJUDICE; 
b) an instance of such prejudice
Webster Dictionary
clickbait an internet story, title, image, etc. that is intended to attract attention and encourage people to click on a link Cambridge Dictionary
confirmation bias people’s tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with their existing beliefs.  Britannica
crisis actor

a professional or volunteer actor who plays a role in a staged drill in order to prepare or train first responders for a specific emergency scenario; or (in a false flag conspiracy theory) a person pretending to be a victim in a hoax attack.
deepfake any of various media, esp. a video, that has been digitally manipulated to replace one person's likeness convincingly with that of another, often used maliciously to show someone doing something that he or she did not do. Oxford Languages
disinformation deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda
filter bubble an environment and especially an online environment in which people are exposed only to opinions and information that conform to their existing beliefs Merriam-
Webster Dictionary
go viral if a video, image, or story goes viral, it spreads quickly and widely on the internet through social media and email. Collins Dictionary
misinformation incorrect or misleading information Merriam-
Webster Dictionary
parody a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule Merriam-
Webster Dictionary
satire a poem or (in later use) a novel, film, or other work of art which uses humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize prevailing immorality or foolishness, esp. as a form of social or political commentary.  Oxford Languages
troll a troll is Internet slang for a person who intentionally tries to instigate conflict, hostility, or arguments in an online social community. GCF Global