Fake News, Fact-checking, and Bias

This guide is intended to serve you as a "toolkit" to help you evaluate fact from fiction, journalism from agenda

As a community college library, we are NOT a fact-checking service. Through this guide, TCC librarians provide instruction, resources, and tips for our students, and for others to practice their own skills in fact-checking, evaluating sources, and detecting media bias.

Fake News, Fact-checking, and Bias

Truth wordle

Image source:  "Truth and knowledge" wordle by GDJ is in the public domain

Defining Some Important Terms


The word "post-truth" is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Source: "Word of the Year 2016" by Oxford Dictionaries. Standard YouTube license, 2016.

Fake News

Fake news websites, as defined in Wikipedia, deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news — often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gain. (See the next tab about news satire.)

Also known as:  hoax news

Video: Real news vs. fake news (3:19 minutes)

video: "Real news vs. Fake news" by University of Louisville University Library. Standard YouTube license applies.

News Satire

News satire, also called "satirical news," as defined in Wikipedia, is a type of parody presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, and called satire because of its content.

The difference between "fake news" and "news satire" - short version:
  • News satire is intended to be read as "fake", or for entertainment; the creator(s) is using humor to call attention to a social or political reality. In addition, satire does something described colloquially in the U.S. as "punching up": Classically defined, satire uses humor to lampoon those who hold the power in the satirized situation.
  • Fake news, however, intends to deceive, to lead the reader to believe the misinformation. If humor is applied, it often "punches down", or lampoons those who do not hold the power in the situation. By definition, this cannot be satire.

Example of two well-known satire sites:

clickbait graphicClickbait

As defined by the Urban Dictionary, clickbait is "An eyecatching link on a website which encourages people to read on. It is often paid for by the advertiser ("Paid" click bait) or generates income based on the number of clicks."

Explore more about clickbait:

Media Bias

"Media bias," as defined in Wikipedia, is the bias -- or perceived bias -- of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. 

For example, if people describe Fox News as "conservative" or The New York Times as "liberal," they are reflecting this concept of "media bias."


How can you detect media bias?

Go to the "How to Check for Facts, Bias, and Fake News" page of this guide and click on the "Sites for Checking... Media Bias" content box on the left column of that page to help you assess, or detect, a specific media publication's bias.

Confirmation Bias

"Confirmation bias" is a type of selective thinking or researching and the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.


As defined in Merriam-Webster, truthiness is "Believing something is true from the gut, or inside. Using life experiences of learnings to make something seem true."

This term has been around awhile. In fact, "truthiness" was Merriam-Webster's "Word of the Year" in 2006!

Media Literacy

As defined by the Media Literacy Project, "media literacy" is "the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media."

Related keywords and conceptsdigital literacy, information literacy, information fluency

This guide contains resources and structural organization derived, with permission, from the "How to Evaluate News Sources" LibGuide by Stephanie Debner, Mt. Hood Community College Library. Except where otherwise noted, the content in this guide is licensed under a CC Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 license.

Note: This guide was reviewed in May 2024. See errors? Have feedback or suggestions? Use the "Get Help" tab to contact us to let us know!

Scientific American: Special issue: Confronting Misinformation

Related Guides

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