Sometimes, when you investigate the source (Move Two), you’ll find that the source is sufficient for your needs. Other times, however, you may not be able to determine the reliability of a source. Often, we don’t really care about the source at all—we just want to get an accurate story on the subject from somewhere.
That’s where Move Three comes into play! When the initial source you encounter is low quality and you just care about the claim, your best strategy might be to find a better source altogether.
In order to find better coverage, you can do a “quick search” on a claim/story. Simply type keywords from the article title into Google and (1) observe any consensus, disagreement or controversy on the story, and (2) determine whether the claim is true or false by trying to find reporting by other sources you can confirm are credible. If your Google search shows that this story is being covered by multiple outlets, that’s a good sign—after all, most big (true) stories will get covered by multiple, major news outlets. See the “quick search” in action in the (1:49) video below:
Social Media, News Stories, and “Trading Up”
By Google searching a claim and getting a story from a news source that has a verification process in place (like in the video above), you not only verify the claim, but you end up with a better story to share with others. We call this "trading up." The idea behind trading up is that you can use things like social media to discover stories relevant to you, but when you find the stories, take a moment to "zoom out" and get the best reporting or analysis on it, rather than simply reading the specific article that happens to find its way to you. Watch this in action in the (4:27) video below, as Caulfield attempts to "trade up" and find trusted coverage on suspicious Coronavirus claims found on social media:
When you use social media in this way, you let social media do what it does best (personalized topic discovery) while relying on either news or other searches to address social media's big problem (credibility, clickbait, manipulation). If you find a better story on the subject, share that story instead, and in doing so make social media a bit better for everyone.
Reverse Image Search to Find Trusted Coverage
Sometimes (many times!) claims or stories will come to you in the form of images. If you want to find trusted coverage of the issue, claim, or photo, you have a couple options:
Keep in mind that if reverse image search is difficult due to the device or browser you are using, you can usually get pretty far with the text search of Google Images. The two (1:30/3:07) videos below will show you examples of using reverse image search to find trusted coverage:
Putting It All Together
Now, let’s combine all the strategies and skills discussed thus far in order to determine the validity of a particularly sinister story-photo combination (4:22):
This guide is based on the work of Mike FitzGerald, Los Angeles Valley College Library, which can be found here.
The SIFT Method portion of this guide was adapted from "Check, Please!" (Caulfield). The canonical version of Check, Please! exists at http://lessons.checkplease.cc (CC-BY). As the authors of the original version have not reviewed any other copy's modifications, the text of any site not arrived at through the above link should not be sourced to the original authors.