How to Evaluate Sources

The need to evaluate the sources used in a news story has become more and more important as a job for the news consumer as the 24 hour news cycle and the speed at which unfounded rumors can be spread online have made it much more difficult for the traditional "gatekeepers" of news and information to keep up. When evaluating sources, we use these questions to frame the discussion:

  • Who is this source?
  • How would this person know about this?
  • Is anyone else telling the same story?
  • Is this person provising evidence or just making assertions?
  • Does this source have a dog in the fight? / Are they affected by the story in some sort of way?

Take a look at this story that reports on whether cell phones interfere with the safe operation of an airliner. Yes, it's a bit old, as airline rules have changed for electronic devices on a plane, but we still think its a good example for thinking about the sources used in it. Use the questions posed above to evaluate the sources in the story.