Go Upstream

7 Go Upstream to Find the Source

Mike Caulfield

Our second move, after finding previous fact-checking work, is to “go upstream.”  We use this move if previous fact-checking work was insufficient for our needs.

What do we mean by “go upstream”?

Consider this claim on the conservative site the Blaze:

Headline of an online article

Figure 6

Is this claim true?

Of course we can check the credibility of this article by considering the author, the site, and when it was last revised. We’ll do some of that, eventually. But it would be ridiculous to do it on this page. Why? Because like most news pages on the web, this one provides no original information. It’s just a rewrite of an upstream page. We see the indication of that here:

Text from Daily Dot, with sentences highlighted.

Figure 7

All the information here has been collected, fact-checked (we hope!), and written up by the Daily Dot. It’s what we call “reporting on reporting.” There’s no point in evaluating the Blaze’s page.

So what do we do? Our first step is to go upstream. Go to the original story and evaluate it. When you get to the Daily Dot, then you can start asking questions about the site or the source. And it may be that for some of the information in the Daily Dot article you’d want to go a step further back and check their primary sources. But you have to start there, not here.

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Go Upstream to Find the Source by Mike Caulfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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