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How do I evaluate a news story?

This playbook will provide tools and strategies to help you identify credible news sources.

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Module Outcomes

After completing this module, students will be able to:

  • evaluate a news stories for credibility using a set of criteria


Steps of Analysis

Use the chart below to evaluate a news story. Using the criteria on the left, you can see which characteristics are desirable in a credible news story. Please note that a news article can still be considered credible even if it contains characteristics from the far-right column.

Criteria In favor of credibility Not in favor of credibility

Type of Article

  • The article is a news story.
  • The news source follows the Associated Press (AP) Style or other standardized style guide.
  • Answers the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
  • This news article is an editorial or an opinion piece.
  • The story is an advertisement, often labeled sponsored content.




  • The title is descriptive of the content of the article.
  • When promoted on social media, the title accurately reflects the content of the linked article.
  • The title of the story is sensationalized or uses hyperbolic words to create an emotional response.
  • The title is clickbait.
  • The URL contains words like “wordpress” or “blogger." This indicates the site is a blog.
  • The website title ends in “lo.” These sites are often satire.
  • The domain contains “,” which are sometimes fake versions of real websites.



  • Acknowledges what information is unknown or unclear; this is called transparency.
  • Regularly updates the story as events unfold.
  • The evidence presented in the news story is verified.
  • The primary evidence used is direct (observer eyewitness accounts; journalist eyewitness account; documents and records; and video, audio, and photographs).
  • The primary evidence used is indirect (e.g. accounts from spokespersons; experts; computer models; hearsay; and inferences).
  • The evidence is not verified or corroborated.
  • One-sided or biased evidence is purposefully provided to prove or argue a particlar viewpoint.
  • Evidence is presented outside of context.


Publishers and Journalists

  • Editorial boards and parent organizations are listed in an “About Us” section of the website.
  • The publishing company and journalists are transparent and acknowledge conflicts of interest. Typically this information can be found in the "Legal" or "Disclaimer" sections of the website.
  • Journalists follow a code of ethics.
  • The journalists are trained professionals. (It's always a good idea to research the credentials and backgrounds of affiliated writers.)  
  • The publisher is a content mill.
  • There is no information about the publisher or the writer(s) on the website where the article is posted.
  • The authors listed are known for fictitious or satirical websites.




  • The sources are evaluated against IMVAIN:
    • Independent: the sources are independent and neutral
    • Multiple: multiple sources are cited in the story.
    • Verified: the sources provide evidence that support the story as opposed to assertions, beliefs, or opinions.
    • Authoritative/Informed: the source either has the credentials or is close to the event/story and can provide accurate information (the innermost circle).
    • Named: the source and their affiliations are explicitly provided in the story.
  • The source's evidence is presented in context.
  • The source's quotes, evidence, and observations are presented accurately and objectively.
  • The source is given proper attribution in the story.
  • You confirm quotes, statistics, and information presented elsewhere.
  • Unreliable sources are:
    • Self-interested or biased
    • Singular, in that there is only one source cited in the story
    • Offer assertions, beliefs, or opinions without evidence
    • Uninformed sources may be reporting hearsay and are not "close" to the event/story (the outermost circle)
    • Unnamed



  • The publisher website (interface) is well designed, edited, and professional in appearance.
  • The website and article are grammatically correct and follow proper etiquette.
  • The website is badly designed.
  • The design is cluttered with text and heavy-handed photoshopping or born-digital images.
  • The title/headline are in all caps.

Content modified from Melissa Zimdars, "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical 'News' Sources" licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 International License and University of Texas Libraries, Finding News and News Evaluation: Evaluating News Sources, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

How to Choose Your News

by Damon Brown, from TedEd

Example Assignments