Be a wise news reader

“We don’t read the paper.” “There’s too much bad news.” “I read the news online.” Those who aren’t in the news industry may not see these statements as a problem, but it’s actually a big part of why there are so many misinformed or uninformed people out there. And sometimes the misinformed are the most vocal, which spreads misinformation like wildfire online.

What do people consider news?

Every day, millions of people share and comment on stories, memes and photos they see on social media. Fact-checking is part of a news reporter’s job. What cannot be verified should not be reported. We strive to get accurate news out quickly and correctly. It’s our job. We do the fact-checking so you don’t have to.

But in the process of getting the news out quickly, even news professionals can get information incorrect. Therefore, we have to fact-check ourselves, too and be open to your fact-checking of us. When something we reported turns out not to be accurate, we correct it online, making a note of it the story, and put a correction notice in the print edition, usually on page A3.

For you, fact-checking something you read on social media, especially before sharing it, should be a matter of habit. Memes, political or otherwise, can often misrepresent information — or cherry-pick or twist it to lead you toward a particular viewpoint.

It’s probably wise to check it out before you post it under your own name.

An easy way to fact-check national news you find online is to use a website like snopes.com or factcheck.org. Not only are these sites able to tell you if something is true or not, they provide the background and sources necessary to explain why.

Another bad habit among those who only get their news from social media is to read the headline and not the story. We’ve seen this in the comment section of several of our stories. One example was an editorial we wrote about a hiker who went missing and died in the High Peaks Wilderness. We suggested that he might not have died if he had communicated with people and gotten advice before setting out into the woods as a novice. But many only read the headline, “Could communication have saved Alex Stevens?” and wrongly assumed we were talking about a lack of cellphone service in the backcountry.

Newspapers, whether you read online or in print, help you be an informed member of your community: politically, civicly, financially, professionally, personally. So choose and read your news wisely.

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