Skip to main content
Research Guides

Newspapers as Primary Sources

Screenshot of the Seattle Times homepage.  Frontpage of The Washington Post with the headline: Grahams to sell The Post. Frontpage of a Japanese newspaper.

Reliability Rating

A scale from Least to Most Reliable with a white arrow pointing to the center.

YELLOW: Be critical, these sources generally follow professional ethical standards but will vary on the partisan continuum.

News Sources

News sources - Newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news inform the general public.  

Reputable news organizations operate under codes of ethics and professional standards.  While journalism associations, individual news organizations, and journalists themselves often have their own "code of ethics;" most share these basic principles:  truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability.  

Read more about Journalism Ethics and Standards

A Savvy News Consumer infographic with the center text bubble in red with white text and surrounding text bubbles in black with white text.

Read Beyond the Headlines

Don't just accept outrageous headlines.  Read the story and critically evaluate the content.  Analyze it through the eyes of an editor or fact checker.  

Consume Local News

Be informed of what's happening in your neighborhood, school board, city council, county government, state legislature, and sate supreme court.  Subscribe to local newspapers and listen to your local NPR station.

The UW Libraries subscribes to many Washington State newspapers.  

The Washington Post and The New York Times offer subscription discounts to students, staff, and faculty.  Learn more here.  

Ask: Am I learning every day what I need to know?

  • Do I understand what people are talking about?  If not, where can I learn more?
  • Can I explain the situation to others?
  • Do I understand today's top news stories?

ASK YOURSELF: Is this source SMART?

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?

 

Check Biases

Readers, authors, journalists, editors - we all have bias.  Being aware of our own bias and recognizing the bias of others will help us to be savvy news consumers. 

Read Opposing Views