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Spot the Fake: Identifying and Comparing Good vs Bad Articles

Posted on July 11, 2024
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The internet is flooded with information, but not all of it is reliable. In a world where anyone can post an article online or doctor photos to push a false narrative, it is increasingly more difficult to distinguish between trustworthy information and misinformation. 

Credible sources are the key to being able to make informed decisions, especially when it comes to your health. As a nonprofit dedicated to ending flu deaths through public education, we recognize the need for everyone to be informed consumers of information. 

Below, we’ve gathered a few tips to help you identify credible articles so that you can avoid falling for misinformation and bad articles.

Consider the Source

Good Articles: Well-sourced articles are written or sourced from experts in the field, such as healthcare professionals, researchers, or reputable journalists. These individuals typically have relevant qualifications, years of experience, and are often affiliated with respected institutions.

Bad Articles: On the other hand, articles written by individuals without relevant expertise may be less trustworthy. The author may lack credentials or affiliations with credible organizations. Sometimes the author’s identity might be missing completely.

While bylines may be rare on articles written on behalf of an organization, most organizations will still have team bios where you can find contact information for these writers. Beware of websites that are not transparent about who is behind the keyboard.

Be Skeptical About Publication Platforms

Good Articles: Found on websites of reputable organizations like universities, government health departments, or well-known media outlets. Examples include CDC, WHO, major newspapers, and academic journals.

Bad Articles: Appear on obscure websites or blogs without any track record of reliability. These platforms might have a history of spreading false information or lack editorial standards.

Check the Evidence and References

Good Articles: Provide clear evidence to support their claims. They cite studies, link to primary research, and reference authoritative sources like government agencies or medical journals. The data presented is typically up-to-date and peer-reviewed, and the information on these articles can be cross-verified with multiple reputable sources. If an article claims a new study supports flu vaccination, you should be able to find the same information on other credible platforms.

Bad Articles: Lack of substantial evidence. They may rely on anecdotal stories, outdated studies, or misinterpret data to push a narrative. References, if any, often lead to dubious sources or broken links. In addition, the claims made in the article may be hard to verify or only found on similarly questionable sites. Take it as a major red flag if you can’t find other reputable sources corroborating the information.

Seek Out Neutral Language

Good Articles: Use precise and neutral language. They aim to inform rather than provoke. The tone is balanced, and the content is free from sensationalism.

Bad Articles: Often use alarmist language to elicit strong reactions. They might include sensational headlines, an abundance of exclamation marks, or use drama to grab your attention.

When Was it Published?

Good Articles: Include the date of publication so that you can be sure that the information is current. 

Bad Articles: Might lack publication dates or rely on outdated information. Keep in mind that even accurate information can become misleading if it is not current.

Uncovering Bias and Objectivity

Good Articles: Present a balanced view, acknowledging the complexities of the topic and sharing both sides of a story. They provide a fair analysis of the evidence. If there are any conflicts of interest to their reporting they are quick to point out these potential conflicts of interest, including funding sources. 

Bad Articles: Show clear bias, often pushing a particular agenda with negative language toward the opposing viewpoint. They might ignore or dismiss evidence that contradicts their stance, even if the evidence comes from reputable sources. When it comes to funding, they often lack transparency regarding sponsorships or conflicts of interest. Hidden agendas are the name of the game.

Is Reader Engagement and Feedback Encouraged?

Good Articles: Encourage peer review and value constructive feedback. Reputable sites often have comments sections or forums where experts can discuss and critique the content.

Bad Articles: Avoid scrutiny by disabling comments or ignoring critical feedback. A lack of engagement can indicate an unwillingness to be held accountable.

Do they Allow Updates and Corrections?

Good Articles: Are updated regularly to reflect new information or correct errors. Reputable sources prioritize accuracy and are not afraid to make corrections.

Bad Articles: Rarely update or correct their content, even when proven wrong. 

Being a smart consumer of information is the first step to combating misinformation, especially when it comes to health-related topics like flu vaccinations. Seek out reputable sources, question dubious claims, and always seek the truth. Doing so contributes to a well-informed society where decisions and ideas about health, such as flu prevention, are based on accurate and trustworthy information.

Learn More About Families Fighting Flu

Families Fighting Flu (FFF), a national, nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to honoring loved ones who have suffered serious medical complications or died from influenza, commemorates 20 years of advocacy protecting children, families, and all communities from the flu. Our 20th anniversary is a testament to our dedication and enduring efforts to protect families. It is also a sobering reminder that we are not done yet.

In sharing personal stories, FFF strives to increase awareness about the seriousness of the flu, reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths each year, drive up vaccination rates for everyone six months and older, and encourage symptomatic individuals to get tested and receive appropriate treatment. Learn more about our mission and resources here so that you can empower your family to stay healthy this flu season and beyond.

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