Your first step when evaluating a source is to see if anyone has already verified the information in the article. There are many fact-checking sites that may have already evaluated the news story.
Go to one (or as many as needed) of these sites and enter the main claim of the article you are evaluating in the search box. Most of these sites will explain why a claim may or may not be false or misleading. You do not have to accept these reasons, but it gives you more information about the claim.
Not every news story is original reporting. Many stories are syndicated (written by a different news outlet like the AP) or borrow information from other stories. Before you question the reliability of a news organization, it is valuable to go upstream and find the original source.
There are several ways to find the original source:
Sometimes you have to look beyond the article or news site to evaluate the quality of the source you have found. You can often learn more about a source by finding out what others are saying about the site.
If you get lost in the process or are getting increasingly frustrated, take a breath, and start at the beginning. You now know more about the problem and are likely to find more as you start over.
Do you feel a rising sense of happiness, anger, pride or vindication as you read a story? If yes, this is when it is vital for you to stop and run through the four steps of fact-checking. Always be aware of how a story is affecting your emotions.
We are more likely to believe and share content that triggers an emotional response. And those who write misleading news are well aware of this trend. They are more than happy to use emotionally charged language to push their story on your news feeds, regardless of the facts.
How can you recognize your feelings? Drawing on lessons from mindfulness training will help.