One of the easiest ways to figure out if a news story is legitimate or not is to check it against the stories posted on other reputable sites. Let's stick with the example of President Obama suffering a heart attack. You become alarmed, but realize you're finding out about this upsetting news on a website that you don't recognize. Let's call it BigNews.com. Simply conduct an online search for "President Obama heart attack" and see what comes up. If sites like The New York Times, CBS or CNN are running the same story, it's likely true.
However, make sure to delve a bit deeper. If The New York Times, CBS and CNN all cite BigNews.com as the source for their Obama heart attack story, that puts you right back where you started from. You need to find a reputable source that has done its own reporting on the story to ensure its truth and accuracy.
Think that's excessive? In January 2014, the Daily Mail ran a photo of smoggy Beijing in the early morning. A giant, rectangular TV screen in the foreground showed a beautiful sunrise. The story underneath was titled, "China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in smog." The venerable Time magazine and CBS picked up the story, crediting the Daily Mail as the source. But they soon issued a correction when, after finally doing their own reporting, they discovered it was a fabrication. The TV screen existed, but the sunrise shot was part of a tourism ad [source: Nijhuis].