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Fake News & Misinformation: How to Spot It and Verify

When you see a “news” story, you need to dig a lot deeper than the headline or the text of the article to know if what you are seeing is fact. This guide provides tips and resources to help you discern whether the news you see and read is real or fake.

Spotting Fake News


Spot & Stop Fake News in Five Easy Steps!

Did you hear that taurine can reverse the effects of tinnitus? Or that a man named Tom Ogle invented a carburetor that runs entirely on fuel vapors? Maybe you did, but hopefully you didn’t believe those stories – because they’re not true.

Fake news is legion these days. According to Merrimack College professor Melissa Zimdars, fake news comes in one of four categories:

1 – Completely false news, with no factual basis

2 – News that is misleading or inaccurate

3 – News stories with attention grabbing headlines that may not have anything to do with their article’s content

4 – Satirical sites, whose content is meant to invoke humor

Source: False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources by Melissa “Mish” Zimdars, Assistant Professor of Communication, Merrimack College (Google docs)

What makes a news story fake?

Breaking News Stories: Be Aware

On the Media's Breaking News Consumer's Handbook. "Rather than counting on news outlets to get it right, we're looking at the other end. Below are some tips for how, in the wake of a big, tragic story, you can sort good information from bad."

Printable PDF


Read Laterally! Be a fact checker!

Common Errors and Frequent Causes of Error

Common Errors

  • numbers and statistics (mixing up “billions” & “millions”)
  • names of people, titles, locations
  • ages
  • historical facts
  • superlatives like “only,” “first” and “most”
  • dates

Frequent Sources of Error

  • working from memory
  • making assumptions
  • second-hand sources

Source: Writing and Editing for Digital Media, Brian Carroll, via Google Books

Where do I fact check?

  • Go to the primary source when possible. Using secondary sources like other articles, blog comments and retweets can perpetuate errors.
  • Use your library’s electronic and print resources.
  • Search databases of news and journal articles, like LexisNexis or ScienceDirect, which aren’t accessible on the web, but are available as a library database
  • Study this guide!

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000