Battling Misinformation: A Guide to Recognizing Bias and Fact-Checking News


Vanessa Otero, Wikimedia Commons

A visual graph of reliable and biased news sources

Maintaining objectivity in journalism enables the audience to interpret the facts of an event or story to reach their own, informed conclusion. The facts should be verified and presented without prejudice, regardless of the journalist’s personal opinions on the subject matter. However, right or left skewed news sources often influence or change these facts to fit their personal prejudices better, causing readers to reach conclusions more favorable towards that particular news source’s predisposition. Two examples of extremely left or right news sources include Fox News, a conservative news source, and Huffington Post, a liberal news source. Because these outlets have such heavy biases towards one side or another, the articles that are posted on their news sites also reflect their views. For example, a recent article from Fox News is titled “Trump continues to outpace Biden in events through final stretch of campaign”, while an article from Huffington Post is titled, “Donald Trump Is A Down-Ballot Burden — Even In Districts He Won.” The titles of these articles are in contradiction with one another, one suggesting that Donald Trump is succeeding in his re-election campaign and the other declaring that he has failed tremendously. When reading articles like these, it seems impossible to discern useful information from each biased perspective. But by recognizing the bias in both sides of the story clearly, we can remain impartial as we collect facts from all points of view. If we consistently consume only one standpoint’s articles or videos, we won’t be able to come to our own, neutral decisions, as we too will only know biased information from the articles we read.

Dr. Zarlengo, the OHS Division Head of English and an expert in fiction, has some advice for navigating this world of partisan news. The good news is that “there are some clear markers of fiction: lies are usually far less detailed or much more detailed than the truth,” says Dr. Zarlengo. Usually, information that is validated by other sources is truthful. The bad news is that “often, the truth is not easy to find,” but if we’re willing to look for it, we can find at least some of it. But it “helps to start from the understanding that it’s sometimes hard to tell fact from fiction,” says Dr. Zarlengo. “Knowing an account is biased does not make it useless…Every work of fiction I have ever loved tells truths and many are rich with facts. Any news coverage on the 2020 elections is going to blend fact and fiction, whether in how information is relayed or how it’s framed.” Accepting and familiarizing ourselves with the partiality of every source is an important step in distinguishing between truth and falsehood. 

Attempting to distinguish what is true and what is not can be extremely difficult these days, as people can get information from thousands of different sources, whether that be from social media or reliable news sources. The following are some steps to help you navigate the world of factually incorrect information.


Read through your articles and identify claims or facts that pose uncertainty.

Read through your article, noting sentences or paragraphs that you would like to fact-check. These can be anything from a statistic that you want to explore to a bold statement that you are questioning. List anything that you are uncertain of and make a note of why you flagged it. 


Research those claims using fact-checking websites or Google!

Certain websites have been created specifically for this purpose, such as or Politifact. The main goal of these websites is to fact check claims for readers just like you! Search up your topic and read through what they found true and false. Most websites will point out what is factually correct and sort through what is not, as well as provide an explanation for each. Do keep in mind that you still have to remain objective! Caveat: Do not believe everything you read! Make sure to check with multiple fact-checkers or even on Google and other search engines. Include keywords in your search to help find relevant information. For example, if you are researching an article about the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States, include keywords such as “COVID-19,” “United States,” “mortality rate,” and the specific time period you are searching for to help narrow your search. 


Check if your fact is true or not.

If you can find enough evidence that proves your claim is valid, congratulations! You can, while still remaining objective, believe it! But keep in mind, just because one fact in an article is true does not mean the rest of it is. For each claim or the article’s main idea, repeat the process to ensure that your article is factually correct. If it is, you can objectively trust what it says. If your fact turns up to be factually incorrect, check the rest of your article. Remember that just because one fact is not valid does not mean your whole article is erroneous. If you find more than one factually incorrect claim, it might be best to Google other articles that cover the same topic. Make sure to fact check that article too! Do not believe that the news source who published the article will always give factually incorrect information. They may just have received incorrect information from a source and did not double-check their source’s credibility. Similarly, just because one article is true, do not make the mistake of believing that said news source is always correct.