The SMART Check is particularly helpful when evaluating news stories. Determine if your news source is SMART before believing what is reported.
Source: Who or what is the source?
- Where does the story come from?
- Is it a reputable news outlet?
- If the source is unclear, be skeptical about the story.
- Make sure it's a source you can trust - e.g. a newspaper with good fact checking.
Motive: Why do they say so?
- Do they have a special interest or particular point of view that may cause them to slant information to suit their beliefs or causes?
- Biased sources can be accurate, but you need to check them carefully.
- Get all sides to a story.
Authority: Who wrote the story?
- What are the author's credentials?
- Is the person reporting the story an eyewitness or is he/she interviewing an eyewitness? Remember eyewitnesses can be wrong.
- Be wary of any source that is repeating hearsay and rumors.
- Make sure it's a source you can trust - e.g. an expert on the subject, a journalist reporting for a news outlet with a code of ethics, etc.
Review: Go over the story carefully.
- Does it make sense?
- Is it logically consistent?
- Are there any notable errors in facts or conclusions?
- Make a list of questionable facts. Develop questions about the story.
Two-source Test: Double check everything if possible.
- Talk to others or tune in to other newscasts to see if they are also reporting the same story.
- Research the subject in journal articles and newspapers, by interviewing others, and search online.
- Does your two-source test confirm or contradict the story?