Move 2: Go upstream

Going upstream means following a piece of content to its true source, and beginning your analysis there. Your first question when looking at a claim on a page should be “Where did this come from, and who produced it?” The answer quite often has very little to do with the website you are looking at.

Chapter 10 of Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers

Front matter

  • Before we get into Move 2, let’s check in about Move 1. We met on Friday and you added your revised first fact-check by posting it to your WordPress site for today. How did this go? Tell us one thing you learned from revision, either about the facts or the writing process itself. And let’s take a look at the blogroll.
  • Conferences tomorrow: schedule here.

Go upstream

Why go upstream? Much of the web is predicated on making money from users’ clicks. For this reason, content on the web is often recycled, repurposed, or just plain plagiarized and stolen from other, more original sources (you’ll see a good example in the next unit when we talk about the economics of post-truth). Ad revenue, after all, is generated from clicks — not actual readers.

And even when original content is found it is sometimes sprinkled with more dubious sponsored content — that is, headlines or articles that appear legit but are actually paid for by advertisers. This can vary by platform. Here’s a screenshot from my iPad app from last winter, for example. Do you notice the article with a tiny SPONSORED CONTENT heading?

So going upstream can be necessary or helpful for uncovering moments when web writing is simply presenting “reporting on reporting,” offering “syndicated content,” or a story is uncontrollably viral. But what does going upstream specifically entail? How might you make use of it in your first post? Some strategies might include:

  • Following links to sources when they are provided.
  • Googling sources or phrases from a text using the right-click search option when they are not.
  • Scanning search results for URLs — not titles.
  • Executing advanced search commands like site searches (“site:”)

Finding facts and practicing the first two moves

It’s one thing to be handed memes in the classroom and quite another to go out and find sources for fact-checking on your own. But alas that’s what I’m asking you to do for your second fact-check.

Activity: Work alone or in pairs to find sources that might need some fact-checking. Complete the fields in this Google Doc, which will prepare you to draft your second fact-check.

Remember that DigiPo defines a fact as “something that is generally not disputed by people in a position to know who can be relied on to accurately tell the truth.” Given this definition, which facts on our table might be easier to check than others? What would you have to know or do in order to go about checking this fact?

Homework for tomorrow’s conference

FC#2: in a Google Doc, draft your research of a claim that is presented as a statement of fact. Write and share with me a fact-check (500-700 words) that:

  1. Describes how you encountered a claim and summarizes its source.
  2. Investigates the claim in 2-3 ¶s using the first 2 moves: looking for previous work and going upstream.
  3. Gestures toward a conclusion about its truth based on your research so far.

Homework for Wednesday

  • Read only Chapters 16-19 in Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, about how to read laterally.
  • Revise FC#2 & post it to your WP site. Your post should be titled concisely and accurately (i.e. “Fact-check #2: Pelosi claims Jussie Smollett is innocent?”), include 2-3 embedded links to sites you refer to in your discussion, embed at least one image, tweet, video, sound clip, or some other non-textual feature, and make use of some of the formatting features: bullets, headings, quotations, etc.