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Newspapers @ Pitt: Determining Bias & Credibility

A guide to finding major, historical, and foreign language newspapers available through the University Library System.

Determining credible sources is crucial to understanding information and news. Figuring out the bias of the author of an article can be very difficult.

Tips for Analyzing News Sources on the Open Internet

Tips for analyzing news sources:

  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

  • Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.

  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).

  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.

  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

© 2016 by Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication & media, Merrimack College

Websites to Help

Evaluating Sources

Use the CRAAP acronym to help evaluate the sources you find.

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose

For more detailed information, check out the document linked below created by Meriam Library at California State University, Chico.

Comparing Sources

  Scholarly Trade/Professional Popular
Creator Experts (with experience or academic degrees) Subject-specific writers and professionals Journalists, anyone
Purpose Creating knowledge Sharing information Entertainment
Audience Scholars, students, and researchers Professionals and those interested in the field General public
Formats Journal articles and books are most common Trade journals, professional magazines, professional association websites Newspaper articles, other online articles and posts
Length and Content Longer and focus on very specific and narrow topics Short to mid length, middle-level specificity Short and general
Sources Provides sources formally with citations Sometimes sources are mentioned, but rarely are they formally cited Rarely are sources mentioned or cited formally
Pros Likely to be reliable and credible, very in-depth and detailed Tends to contain information about things affecting practicing professionals, not too complicated Can be more up-to-date about current events, can provide a brief overview
Cons Very detailed and specific, use technical jargon Doesn't contain original research or knowledge, not as in-depth Not as reliable, doesn't provide contextual information
Examples Strategic Management Journal, Information Systems Research Advertising Age, Bloomberg Businessweek Wired, Forbes

If you're ever unsure what type of source you have, Ask Us!