Objectivity has to do with whether or not the information is presented in a fair and balanced way, by offering different points of view. But before you can decide whether or not a website is objective or not, you need to make sure you understand the purpose of the website. Is the purpose to entertain? To try and sway public opinion? To sell something? For example, do you think Pepsi‘s website will provide information on the negative aspects of drinking carbonated beverages? Of course not! Therefore, the website has bias: it’s job is to sell you a product, not make you have second thoughts about it! But we understand that about advertising; bias is not always so obvious so you need to make sure you carefully evaluate the information on a website to decide whether or not it’s giving you both sides of the story.
Questions to ask:
- Is the purpose of the website clear?
- Is the website biased or balanced in the way that it presents information?
- What is the website not telling you? (This is tricky; you need to look at more than one source and compare.)
- Is the website trying to sell you something?
Here’s a tip: look at the website address for clues to help you asses the objectivity (and authority) of a website. For example, government websites often include the domain “.gov” (or “.gc” in Canada); universities, colleges, and other educational institutions, may use “.edu” in their address; professional organizations and associations often use “.org” in their website addresses; and “.com”, of course, was initially used for commercial sites although, many websites now include this domain. Remember, these aren’t “rules”; it’s important to always evaluate each website individually.
Next on our list of criteria is “Currency“.