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General overview and resources regarding fake news and media literacy

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How to Lie 101

Confusing Terms People Like to Throw Around

Fake news

"news that conveys or incorporates false, fabricated, or deliberately misleading information, or that is characterized as or accused of doing so" (Oxford English Dictionary)


"the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person" OR "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


"Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief" (Oxford English Dictionary)


"a false statement made with intent to deceive" (Oxford English Dictionary)

Alternative facts

made notable by Kellyann Conway in 2017. There is no definition because this is an nonsensical oxymoron used to excuse then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer's lies.



Not everyone who creates or engages with an inaccurate, incorrect, or misleading piece of media is actively trying to trick you... but some are. We've created this guide to help you protect yourself from malicious click-baiting and clever lies designed to get you mad. There's plenty to be mad about in this world so let's make sure we're mad about things that really happened.


Tell-tale signs you're being outright lied to:

  • A headline triggers a strong emotion in you, like fear, anger, or disgust. Granted, sometimes factual news is genuinely upsetting; the key is noticing if the article's headline is written specifically to trigger a response or simply relay information. Example: "THE WATER'S TURNING THE FROGS GAY!" versus "Lead levels in Flint, Michigan's water supply at dangerous levels." Both certainly evoke an emotional response but one relies on format (all caps and exclamation points) and outlandish claims that are designed to grab attention while the other is simply stating a fact.
    • If you feel a strong emotional response, take a moment to analyze what the feeling is, what it was triggered by, and ask yourself if the author intended to get you upset. Then look deeper into the details of the article: Do other sources verify the information? What sources do they cite, if any?
  • An article presents information that contradicts everything you know. For example, you should be wary if an article claims to have proof that a griffin fossil was discovered in South Asia because you know that griffins are mythical creatures and as such, are incapable of being fossilized. Even though you may want it to be true - how awesome would that be?! - it is important to think critically about what you know to be true compared to the information you're being presented.
    • Note: it is important to distinguish between personal beliefs and known facts. Unnecessary conflict arises when the line between the two gets blurry, so be aware of what you believe, what science and experience determines are fact, and how they differ from each other.
  • You're reading articles from an organization that is known for spreading lies and pushing a specific viewpoint or bias. Every media source, no matter what they claim, has a bias and will push a certain view in their reporting. Some sources are better than others at keeping the material objective, but everyone has foundational beliefs that affect how they view events and people; journalists are not an exception to this rule.
    • Check out the Media Bias Chart at to see where each news site, article, and writer falls on the chart.

Signs they might be misleading you:

  • The article has no citations, verifiable quotations, listed author's name, or publishing date
  • The video clip shows all the juicy bits but provides little or no context (a video of a car on fire on a crowded street could be literally anywhere for any reason, be sure to look for contextual clues like protest signs, store signage, timestamps, etc.)
  • The information is coming from a comedy site - satire and parody are far too often confused with sincerity because, yes, the world we live in is ridiculous sometimes and both The Onion and The Simpsons have posted satire content that actually came to fruition but that doesn't mean we should start viewing their parodies as prophecies or fact
  • The details aren't lining up with what other reputable sources are saying

Want to dO YoUr oWn rEsEaRcH?

The following are a couple of books available at the Evergreen Library on the topic of understanding the history, effects of, and potential solutions to dealing with lies in the media.

Fact Check!

Daniel J. Evans Library - MS: LIB2300 - 2700 Evergreen Parkway, NE. Olympia, WA 98501 - 360-867-6250