Media Literacy & Misinformation: Reporting the News

Learn how to recognize and prevent misinformation and discover where your news comes from.

Reporter with microphone interviewing someone

Fact-Checking Standards

Fact-checking is an essential part of the news publication process. Professional journalists have established core principles in order to help ensure fair and rigorous fact-checking in news reporting:

Pointer International Fact-Checking Network logo

"We believe nonpartisan and transparent fact-checking can be a powerful instrument of accountability journalism; conversely, unsourced or biased fact-checking can increase distrust in the media and experts while polluting public understanding."

How Fact-Checking Works

Fact-checkers consult primary sources, non-partisan government agencies and experts on relevant topics in order to verify information included in news reporting. logo

How verifies information:

"A fact-checker goes through the story line by line, word by word, to make sure that every fact is correct and every statement we make and conclusion we draw is accurate and based on the evidence. All of our stories contain hyperlinks to source material, so that readers can check our facts...If any new information comes to light after we publish a story that materially changes that story, we will clarify, correct or update our story and provide a note to readers that explains the change, why it was made and the date it was made."

Academia Weighs In

Eberwein, Tobias, and Colin Porlezza (2016). "Both Sides of the Story: Communication Ethics in Mediatized Worlds." Journal Of Communication.

Johnson, Kirsten A., and Burton St. John III (2021). Transparency in the News: The Impact of Self-Disclosure and Process Disclosure on the Perceived Credibility of the Journalist, the Story, and the Organization.  Journalism Studies.

Lindner, Andrew M. (2017). "Editorial gatekeeping in citizen journalism." New Media & Society.

Marcus, Jon (2017). "The Ethics of Leaks." Nieman Reports.

McIntyre, Karen (2016). "What Makes “Good” News Newsworthy?." Communication Research Reports.

The News Leaders Association


News Leaders Association graphic, white letters on green background


The News Leaders Association is a professional organization for news/media editors that offers both advocacy and developmental training for industry professionals. Its goal is "to foster and develop the highest standards of trustworthy, truth-seeking journalism."

From the MU Catalog

Color cartoon showing various hand drawn figures wearing Victorian era suits and holding newspapers with headlines like "fake news"

Reporting the News

Press Watch & the "Why Behind the Lie"

Longtime journalism watchdog Dan Froomkin has coined the phrase "the why behind the lie" to draw distinction between what current journalism does to hold power accountable - fact checking - and what he believes they should be doing. Froomkin's thesis is that in these extraordinary times (and in general), mere fact checking - calling out lies - is not good enough. Instead, he asserts that the real work that needs to be done is to expose why something is being said - framing issues within a larger narrative or goal. Click the Press Watch logo below to follow Dan on his Press Watch blog.

Press Watch newsletter's logo, red letters on white background with legend "an intervention for political journalism."

"I’m not sure there has ever been a major-media 'fact check' that more completely, ludicrously, and appallingly missed the point than the one the New York Times published...the journalistic issue should not be whether there is some factual basis in there somewhere." --Dan Froomkin, 3/24/23 

Journalism Works

Historical image showing a Revolutionary War era handbill showing the "Unite or Die" snake graphic cut into eight pieces showing existing colonies.

“…experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large…”    -- Thomas JeffersonBill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” 1778

Social Media = "Fake News"?

Per a 2020 Pew Research Study, about half of Americans now receive their news from social media rather than from print sources "often" or at least some of the time.


As with previous studies, a majority of those who often get news on social media (57%) say they expect the news they see on these platforms to be largely inaccurate. Concerns about the inaccuracies in news on social media are prevalent even among those who say they prefer to get their news there.

The Information Timeline

The Information Timeline graphic: Illustration of how information is generated and how it travels over time, Downloadable text version available.


Information Timeline Graphic by adstarkel. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

News on YouTube


Color photo of a red, bendable red stick figure with a frown and arms raised in a shrug


A 2020 Pew Research study found that over 25% of American adults get their news from YouTube. As a result, they may fail to distinguish the difference between information obtained from reliable news sources and information found via independent content creators, who "are more likely to cover subjects negatively [and] discuss conspiracy theories."

Woodward & Bernstein

Historical photo (black and white) of Carl Bernstein and his colleague Bob Woodward in the Washington Post newsroom.

"Good journalism should challenge people, not just mindlessly amuse them."  - Carl Bernstein

Reporting & Bias

Least Biased reporting:

Reports stories on a wide variety of topics

Avoids using "loaded" terms that appeal to emotion or stereotypes

Supports all reporting with extensive sourcing/documentation

Woman at desk smiling with a stack of books in front of her

Most Biased or Questionable Reporting:

Uses wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeals to emotion or stereotypes

Reports a preponderance of stories espousing a single viewpoint and omits reporting of information that may challenge this viewpoint

Reports misleading, poorly supported or inaccurate information

Source: Media Bias/Fact Check

Reporting Ethics & Standards

Professional journalists -  television, radio, online and print reporters - have established high ethical standards for their field:

Logo of Society of Professional Journalists, white letters on blue background

"The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is a statement of abiding principles supported by explanations and position papers that address changing journalistic practices...Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity."

Burst Your Bubble

Outside Your Bubble black and white logo with legend "Other perspectives on this story"

In 2017, Buzzfeed News launched a feature called "Outside Your Bubble" that attempts to push readers beyond their own "filter bubble" when they consume news. The feature includes links to related articles on other media platforms like Twitter and Reddit below the text of selected Buzzfeed articles in order to present a variety of opinion on issues raised and to foster "a sense of the context in which news lives now."

Diversity Matters

 A 2018 Pew Research study found that "newsroom employees are more likely to be white and male than U.S. workers overall." This is troubling given the results of 2013 media study on diversity that argues that the type of stories that get reported is likely to depend upon who is doing the reporting. However, the Pew report did note that younger reporters are more likely to embody racial, ethnic and gender diversity than their older colleagues.

Pew poll results showing newsroom employees are more likely to be white and male than all U.S. workers. Highest percentage of them at 77% is Non-Hispanic white.