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Media Studies: Fact Checking and Bias: Advanced Evaluation Techniques

Use this guide to explore the historical, cultural, psychological, and sociological impact mass media bias has on the greater public.

Advanced Evaluation Techniques

SIFT (Four Moves and a Habit) Website Evaluation

1. Stop

First, when you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP. Ask yourself whether you know the website or source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the website is. You don’t have that information, use the other moves to get a sense of what you’re looking at. Don’t read it or share media until you know what it is.

2. Investigate the source

You want to know what you’re reading before you read it. Knowing the expertise and agenda of the source is crucial to your interpretation of what they say. Taking sixty seconds to figure out where media is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.

3. Find trusted coverage

Sometimes you don’t care about the particular article or video that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement. In this case, your best strategy may be to ignore the source that reached you, and look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. Your best bet might not be to investigate the source, but to go out and find the best source you can on this topic, or, just as importantly, to scan multiple sources and see what the expert consensus seems to be. In these cases, we encourage you to “find other coverage” that better suits your needs — more trusted, more in-depth, or maybe just more varied.

4. Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context

Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.

*Credit for SIFT goes to Mike Caulfield and is shared here under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

SIFT (The Four Moves)

Steps you should take every time they come across an unfamiliar claim or source.

Check, Please! Starter Course

Free online course to learn how to fact and source-check in five easy lessons.

 

Using Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

5W + 1H = Confidence

How to evaluate the credibility and quality of your sources using the 5 W’s and1 H?

Who

What

When

Where

Why

How Well

Final Judgement

Organizations

Center for News Literacy: Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Helps students develop critical thinking skills in order to judge the reliability and credibility of information.

CounterSpin: Weekly radio show that exposes and highlights biased and inaccurate news, censored stories, and more.

FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: National media watch group offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship.

First Draft News: Dedicated to improving skills and standards in the reporting and sharing of information that emerges online.

The News Literacy Project: Works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age.

On The Media: Weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view.

Poynter: Resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies.

ProPublica: Independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.