Jessup Playbooks Logo

Media Literacy Modules

These modules support faculty who wish to integrate media literacy into their courses, regardless of discipline.

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