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How to Evaluate Sources of Information?

Have you ever read an article only to find out much later that the news was fake and you were deceived? Or even worse, did you make a financial decision based upon information you got from a supposedly reliable source, only to lose your money? Isn’t it frustrating?

Not all news sources are trustworthy or reliable, especially online, where practically anybody can create content and publish it as fact. Numerous sources are driven by advertising dollars or other hidden agendas, designed to make you think, feel or act a certain way. For these reasons, researching and evaluating news has nowadays become necessary. This is especially true if you are a crypto enthusiast or contributor. As we have said before, fake news can have a significant impact on the prices of cryptocurrencies. Fact checking is, therefore, absolutely essential if you want to make an informed decision when contributing to crypto projects. This is why we have prepared a short how-to guide that will help you determine the reliability of news and allow you to make well-informed decisions.

Determine Which Type of Article You are Reading

The first thing you should do when evaluating a piece of news is to determine exactly which type of article you are looking at. Is it a news story, an editorial, an opinion piece or an advertisement?

 – A news story is a factual media story about a person, place or event, answering these five questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. A news story is written in the inverted-pyramid style, giving the most important information first and additional details later.

An editorial is a brief article written by an editor that expresses a news media’s own views on an issue. If written by an outsider it normally carries a disclaimer saying the article does not necessarily reflect the publisher’s official views.

An opinion piece is an article in which the writer expresses his or her personal opinion, typically one which is controversial or provocative, about a particular issue or piece of news.

An advertisement is a paid, public communication about goods, services, causes, ideas, organizations, people or places designed to inform or motivate and should be clearly marked as such.

Knowing what you are looking at is the first step to figuring out what you can objectively believe.

Determine the Reputation of the Source

This one is pretty simple. If a source has been known to publish reliable information in the past, then it is probable that its future information will also be reliable. Likewise, news from established institutions that have been around for a while carry some weight and have proven their reliability. But do not always assume this – follow other steps in this guide, and implement all the available tools when doing your research.

Pay Attention to Evidence

Evidence is the proof that the sources offer facts. Firstly, you should identify the evidence that any source is offering. Is the evidence presented, or was it something the source saw as an eyewitness? Is it second-hand or pure speculation? Always check if the author did anything to verify this evidence. If the news is specific, that helps, but if it just says “scientists agree,” this should not be considered a fact. Looking for evidence isn’t as hard as it might seem, but it is an important part of news evaluation.

Check the Date

When evaluating news and news sources, it is important to have the most up-to-date information available. If a news article or source seems old, you should probably be sceptical. Always check the publish date or, even better, look for a “last updated” date on a page or site. If there are no dates to be found, this should be a red flag. This is especially important when fact checking information about cryptocurrencies or projects, considering timeliness is crucial. Acting upon news that is days or weeks old could sometimes do more harm than good.

Be Mindful of Authors

News articles whose authors are named are often more reliable than information published anonymously, though this is not always true. But having a name is a great way to start doing your research and determine if a piece of content is trustworthy. Has the author written other articles on the same or similar topic? Does he or she have proper credentials? Find out, and you are one step closer to properly assessing a source.

Read Laterally, Not Vertically

Last but not least, you should always seek context and perspective from other online sources. Do not simply read one piece of news, take it as fact, and act upon such information. Always stay sceptical. Open a series of tabs, and do your own research. Use quotation marks when looking for interesting expressions, review search results carefully and don’t always click on high ranking links – learn how the order is influenced by search engine optimization. It is very important not to stay within a single website to evaluate the reliability of news.

Does This Seem Like a Lot of Work?

That’s because it is a lot of work. Proper evaluation of the reliability of news and news sources is a difficult task which requires some time. But it is very important, especially in the crypto community, where acting upon unreliable news and information significantly hurts your chances of success. This is exactly why BLOCKBIRD aggregates and evaluates all the relevant crypto news in one place.

By using a combination of community collective intelligence and machine learning algorithms, we can evaluate news with pinpoint accuracy, exposing any misinformation in the process. Read our blueprint for more information, and become a part of the BLOCKBIRD movement.

December 3, 2018, Nejc Horvat