How to identify trustworthy news for kids

Are you teaching kids about trusted news sources and spotting fake news? If so, we’ve adapted The Trust Project‘s helpful Trust Indicators for young people.

These indicators might not all be relevant to a particular piece of news but they give a good basis from which you can start asking questions.

Check whether…

1.The journalist is an expert (Someone who is very knowledgeable on the subject)

This is important because we receive news from other people. We are rarely there to see events in the news for ourselves, so we rely on the author to give us accurate information about these events. It is important for the author to base what they say on solid evidence and knowledge.

We should ask: Who made this? Do they have a good professional reputation? Are they reporting on an area they are an expert on?

2. You can clearly see what its purpose is

It’s important to know the purpose (why it was written) so we can see how it is affected by bias. For example, if it is an advert, or if it was paid for by an organisation that’s trying to communicate a particular message, then it is supposed to persuade us to have a certain opinion.

We should ask: Why has this been created? Does this have a clear opinion? Is this sponsored or advertising something? Is the purpose clearly indicated?

Watch Angie Drobnic Holan, Editor-in-Chief of Politifact, answer a student’s question about telling fact from fake in the news.

3. You can find and access the sources

When a journalist is writing a news story, they might use information from lots of different places, such as people’s personal accounts of what happened or official reports. The places where a journalist gets their information are called sources. When a journalist shows what their sources were, we can check for ourselves whether they are accurate.

We should ask: What’s the source? For investigative or in-depth stories, do we have access to the sources behind the claims? Can you find another source to back up what is being said?

4. It has used local knowledge

If a journalist has witnessed an event themselves, they can describe what they have seen with their own eyes. If they speak to other people who were there, they will get the most up-to-date knowledge and learn how the event is affecting people. This all results in a more accurate report about what happened.

We should ask: Was the reporting done on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community? Does it let you know when the news sources are local?

In the run-up to the 2020 US election, The Economist journalist Adam Roberts tells students about the importance of using local knowledge to work out what’s true.

5. It brings in diverse voices

If certain voices, ethnicities, or viewpoints are missing from the news, then we are unlikely to get the full picture. Often, minority voices are are left out or heard from the least, so it’s important to seek out these voices.

We should ask: What are the newsroom’s efforts and commitments to bring in diverse perspectives? Are certain voices, ethnicities or political persuasions missing?

6. It allows readers to participate

Sometimes the journalist might have got it wrong or have an incomplete picture. Allowing the public to give feedback means that journalists can make sure their work is accurate and up to date. They might also use the public to help them find important news worth talking about.

We should ask: Can we participate? Can we give feedback? Does it acknowledge contributions from the public?

7. We can tell the process used to make it

Knowing why a journalist chose to research a particular story and how they went about writing it can help us to understand how we came to read or watch it. It might reveal how well researched or balanced the story is.

We should ask: How was it made? How long did it take to make? Who else was involved in the process?

8. The journalist or news organisation shows they care about these indicators

The journalist or organisation might have lots of rules to ensure the news they publish is accurate, they might have no rules at all or even purposefully publish false news. If a journalist or organisation has a set of rules that they stick to in order to make sure they are being accurate, then their news will be more trustworthy.

We should ask: Does the journalist or organisation have a list of rules that they have to follow? How do they check their facts? Who funds it? What is the journalist’s mission? Does the journalist or organisation make corrections if they are wrong? Do they have a commitment to ethical/diverse/ accurate reporting and how do they show they are sticking to the rules?

To get free weekly resources for classroom discussions about the news, visit our Topical Talk site: