With so much political discussion and intrigue as Maine draws further towards election day 2022, in which the Maine governor and House representatives will be decided, as well as so many other political positions across the nation, it can be confusing and difficult to get a grasp upon what information is relevant, important, and most importantly, factual. This article will cover key ways to research and collect reliable information in order to be as best informed as one can be on any particular topic.
One simple yet usually effective way to quickly check how reliable a source might be is to check the URL of the website that is being used. The basic URL of a website will often end with a top-level domain title (TLD) such as “.com,” “.org,” “.gov,” and so on. These will tell whether or not any given source was published/released with commercial intentions (“.com”) or is part of a research news organization or group (“.org,” “.edu”). Sources with the TLD “.com” will likely be less reliable because they rely on the revenue that comes from their publications, and as such will try to go for flash over substance. Often times it is most beneficial to find a website with a TLD that specifically pertains to the topic being researched. For example, when researching government statutes and policy, the best possible source will likely come from a website that ends in the TLD “.gov.” When researching specific intensive studies, a website with the TLD “.edu” will often yield the most useful and factual data.
Checking the TLD of any given source is a good first step, but it cannot always be a sure-fire method to analyze a source’s reliability. One of the most critical aspects of gathering reliable information is understanding the biases of any particular news source that is being used in research. Luckily, Ad Fontes Media has crafted a highly detailed and accurate media bias chart that is composed of all of the most prominent news sources and references. The chart features a wide array of news sources such as written articles, podcasts, and television programs from across the political spectrum. Here is the most recent version of the chart below:
While the chart may appear intimidating and difficult to read, here are the most important takeaways from what the charts presents.
The highest and most center news sources are considered to be the most relevant, factual, and impartial news sources, and as such are the most reliable information sources. Moving further down from the top-center portion of the chart, there is a clear rift beginning to form. There is a clear correlation between partiality and factuality. As the sources move further away from the center in either direction, the less factual and reliable they tend to be, and as such the lower their position is on the chart. An important detail to note is that the further right leaning news networks and publications tend to be less factual than left leaning news sources, as well as existing in greater quantity.
When using and searching for any news source, refer to the most recently published Media Bias Chart, which can be found here: https://adfontesmedia.com/interactive-media-bias-chart/
Another critical aspect in understanding and attaining reliable data is to research the author or producer of any information source. In news articles, this can often be found at the top of an article underneath the title. If there is not a hyperlink embedded in the name(s) of the author(s), often a simple Google search can provide a brief but thorough bio of the author(s) in question. Finding out the background, education, and personal politics of the author helps provide an understanding of just how biased any particular article may be.
While on the subject of an article’s title, it’s important to be aware of when the article being read was written. Most articles will have the date that it was issued/published right around or underneath the title. This is another critical detail that cannot be overlooked when researching information. An article about Paul LePage’s campaign promises from 2014 will likely not pertain to nor be relevant to the current gubernatorial race in 2022.
It is always important to understand the factuality and reliability of every single source that is being used when researching anything, whether it is for personal enrichment or for a school/work project. Luckily, as outlined in this article, there are plenty of ways to ensure that the information being used is safe and truthful, free from misleading biases and false information.