News reports about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have flooded your social media feeds and news channels, and the headlines seem to be changing every hour. As fear and uncertainty grow with the rise in deaths and confirmed cases worldwide, it has become increasingly important to find trustworthy news sources and to stop the spread of misinformation.
UNC community preparedness and disaster management expert Bill Gentry offers these three tips for finding reliable news sources.
1. Check the CDC and your state public health web sites.
“These are credible public health and medical websites,” Gentry says.
These sites will have practical information for you about how to protect yourself and your family, as well as news of the spread of the virus in your state. Check back regularly to see if they have updated guidance as information is changing often right now, Gentry says.
2. Cross-reference your news sites.
In addition, bookmark two to three trusted news sites on your internet browser and create a systematic approach to validation, Gentry says. Confirm that your site uses experts and official documents to source stories, and that opinion pieces are clearly labeled and distinct from the straight news.
“Treat news like any other consumer commodity. If you were going to buy a car or a house, you would look at more than one option,” Gentry says.
This process does not need to take a lot of time, he says. If you see information on one of your news sites or you see an item on a social media feed, just check it against your other news sites.
If you see a news story on just one site that’s not across all your news sites, “that should put a question in your mind,” Gentry says.
3. Test it with your sounding board.
Another way to check on the authenticity of a news story is to pick up the phone to call a friend or look across the room at a coworker or family member and ask them.
“Ask them, ‘Hey, have you seen this?’ or, ‘Did you read the same thing I’m reading?’ But don’t tell them the site where you saw the news. Just ask them about what you saw and see what feedback they give,” Gentry says.
If you find out a piece of news that you or someone else has shared on social media is false, be sure to communicate that to friends, family and coworkers. You can even issue a “correction” on your post like a newspaper would do in print if it got something wrong.
“I think we have a responsibility to do that,” Gentry says.