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The news media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years as websites and print media compete for readership and fight for short attention spans. There’s more content available than ever before coming at you faster than before and from more varied sources.

Learning to spot fake or exaggerated news can be like trying to distinguish an edible plant from a poisonous one – tricky at best. Sensational headlines are designed to draw you in, but what about the articles themselves? Can they be trusted?

This matters to us in the environmental services industry, because the past few years have brought important updates to laws and regulations that impact our work. Some of those updates are controversial and divisive and covered widely in the media. As informed readers who have a stake in these stories, how do we navigate all the coverage and distill the essential facts? To start, we can brush up on our media literacy skills. Learn to read critically, and you’ll save yourself time and headaches in the long run. Here’s how:


Media Consumption Tips:

  1. GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Laws and environmental regulations are public domain. If you see some surprising news about regulations that are changing, do a little digging. In many cases you can read the documents for yourself. If you’re not sure how to interpret the documents or how the changes impact you, one of our regulatory experts can help.
  2. PAUSE BEFORE REACTING. Before you share, retweet, or forward a piece of news, take a few minutes to look critically at the news outlet or website and identify the source of information. Is it trustworthy and balanced? If you’re not sure, don’t share.
  3. READ DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY TO GET A MORE BALANCED IMPRESSION. Media products (articles, videos, slideshows) are created by individuals who make conscious and unconscious choices about how to present information. Even the most skilled, objective writer must make decisions about what details to include and what to leave out. Those inclusions and omissions shape the story for the reader.
  4. THE MORE SENSATIONAL THE HEADLINE, THE MORE SKEPTICAL YOU SHOULD BE. Keep in mind that headlines are often written by a different person than the author of the article. Websites and print media are competing for audiences with short attention spans. “Fake news” and “clickbait” are the result of that competition.
  5. LOOK CLOSELY AT PHOTOS AND VIDEOS. With access to free editing software and photo apps, almost anyone can alter a photograph or video and make it appear real. Photos and videos can be taken out of context, just as words can. Videos can be sound edited to make it appear someone is saying something they aren’t. Before you share a video or image, check the source. You can paste an image into to see where the image has appeared previously.


At SWCA, our experts track the latest regulatory news and send updates to our clients, along with information about how certain regulations may impact your project. To find out more or subscribe to our news, click here.