Sensationalized and over the top news stories are nothing new. In the last hundred years, tabloids and news magazines have been available; but the way they were distributed and how people encountered the news made it much easier to tell the real from the fake…. In 1980 CNN began their 24-hour news cycle which started a more competitive era for cable news. Access to world events through real-time television broadcasts, 24 hours a day change both the way the news was presented and how the consumer expected to see the news. To fill time around the news stories, producers packed the schedule with commentators, investigative journalism programs, and more and more advertisements. The birth of the World Wide Web in the 1990s in the rise of social media throughout the early 21st century made it even easier to create and distribute information and news. News and commentary that had been limited to print papers or cable news could now be distributed over the Internet and the competition to capture the audience became even fiercer. By 2016, 62% of Americans got their news from social media. Our seamless and constant connection to news organizations, individuals, companies, and institutions through online social media blurs the line between opinion and fact, advertisement and information, and true and false. Credible news agencies scrambled to remain relevant and started creating more and more eye-catching and sensationalized headlines. The line between real news, tabloid news, and outright fabricated news became blurred. And it isn’t a simple matter of real versus fake news either. Skewed or misrepresented versions of actual news stories are often presented in the way that gets lots of attention on social media. Not only are there more news sources, there are also sources of news satire and stories that intentionally poke fun of the news for entertainment. When mixed with comments and posts on social media, this begins to blur the lines between funny and inflammatory. The issue of fake news became a media sensation itself when it was discovered that teenagers in Macedonia were creating pro-Trump news stories which flooded social media and news feeds in the U.S. just before the presidential election. In fact, fake news outperformed real news on Facebook and many Google searches. To make matters even more complicated, the term “fake news” has now become a buzzword for politicians who don’t agree with how the news is being reported. So how do you tell real from fake news? Seek out information sources beyond the social network or sources you’re already familiar with. And though Facebook and Google have taken steps to prevent the spread of fake news, the filters are not foolproof. You still have to rely on brainpower and critical thinking to separate fact from fiction. If you see stories with inflammatory headlines or headlines that incite a strong emotional reaction or that have lots of comments that go back and forth in an argument make sure to investigate the source before getting too worked up. Become familiar with the political and social bias of various news organizations that you use and make sure to verify news sources that you see on social media. To take some of the guesswork out of where news comes from, try going directly to credible news sources like PBS or NPR, international news organizations like Reuters or The Associated Press or newspaper websites like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. These news sources falll roughly in the middle of the political spectrum and when opinion or commentary is presented it’s clearly labeled. If you hit a subscription pay wall or want to search for specific newspapers that you don’t already have access to just use your library’s newspaper databases. We pay for news subscriptions to papers like the New York Times the Burlington Free Press and hundreds of other credible news sources. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with a few reputable fact-checking websites like PolitiFact, Snopes or factcheck.org. For cable news, learn how to tell pundit or commentator from news anchor so you don’t take opinion or conjecture for actual news. In the world that’s increasingly full of misinformation, it’s so easy to be fooled by fake news, advertisements that look like news, or real news stories that are full of opinion or commentary. So remember, don’t spread the fake news! If you see a story that’s too crazy to be true, investigate it before passing it long or posting it to social media.