For really in-depth reading on evaluating sources, this ebook on web literacy by Mike Caulfield is an excellent source https://webliteracy.pressbooks.com/
An easy way to quickly evaluate the news is by using the SMELL test, developed by former journalist John McManus specifically for news sources. It offers a useful set of criteria to keep in mind when reading news sources, in everyday life and in academic research. This isn't an exhaustive list; there are many more questions you might want to ask about your source. This provides a good starting point.
It’s essential to know who is providing the information you want to check for reliability. That’s because humans are incapable of objectivity. Even journalists suffer from biases — conscious and unconscious — arising from their gender, generation, geography, race and class. As Nelson Mandela has observed, “where you stand depends on where you sit.”
What if you can’t identify an information source? Or it has a vague name wrapped in stars and stripes, like “Citizens for American Progress?” Legitimate information sources will always disclose who they are. On the web, they will have an “about us” link to help you assess their independence and expertise.
If the producer of the content isn’t identified, believe nothing from it. Within articles, be skeptical of anonymous sources. Their lack of accountability encourages unreliability.
The source’s motivation matters because if the purpose is persuading rather than informing, we should raise our skepticism shields. Those hoping to sell us on a viewpoint, a product, or a candidate are likely to cherry-pick only those facts that support their purpose. Unethical persuaders spread half-truths and sometimes outright lies.
Informers are faithful to evidence rather than ideology. They avoid sweeping generalizations. They practice transparency (explaining how they know what they claim to know and warning about what they don’t). They call attention to their errors.
Whenever we hear a new assertion about what’s real or true, we should ask: How do you know that?
Trustworthy information providers should attempt to confirm or verify at least the most consequential or controversial claims of their sources. That requires finding at least one other source, independent of the first, who provides a similar description of an event.
If the evidence supplied falls short or appears suspect, you can use the web to check fact-claims yourself. Just enter the claim in a search engine. Or use social media to ask for help from friends with greater expertise.
The fundamental question here is, does this make sense: externally — in light of everything else I know, and internally — is the evidence provided within the report adequate to support the conclusions reached?
Obviously, the more you know, the better your answer to the first question will be. That’s why it’s important to keep up with news from reliable sources. Information that jars you, or that’s “too good to be true,” should arouse suspicion.
Failures of internal logic common to news reports include: anecdotes presented as proof of trends; innuendo — suggesting conclusions that stretch beyond the evidence presented; and flawed comparisons, e.g., likening Saddam Hussein to Adolph Hitler.
Omission and marginalization are among the most powerful and subtle means of introducing bias because we tend to notice only what’s emphasized.
It’s helpful to look for reports from alternative sources — especially those that differ by gender, generation, geography, race or class — that might present a different take on the same story. Often missing facts are linked to missing stakeholders. The least powerful are most likely to be overlooked.
You can read the whole article here.
Here are several fact checking sites that can be used to verify the accuracy of claims made in the news.
Even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness. The best thing to do in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.
Here are some websites that can help you identify media bias.