As we scroll through social media, we oftentimes read headlines and take them at face value without doing any additional digging. It’s become common practice not to fact-check information beyond our first impression of it. “A survey of 1,492 American adults in 2014 found that 58% did not watch, read, or hear any news beyond the headlines in the previous week.”

However, when we only read headlines, we can be misled, whether intentionally or not. As mentioned by Full Fact, “often something important goes missing, or they [journalists] end up saying something else by mistake.”

This can cause a lot of confusion and misinformation. That is why it is always best to do your own research to confirm the claims you see. One method of doing this is called SIFT.

SIFT stands for stop, investigate, find, and trace.

How do you use SIFT?

Let’s use this article from Facebook to walk through the steps of SIFT.

The post starts with an attention-grabbing caption: “Can this save hockey in the desert?”

The article headline reads: “Arizona Coyotes release details of proposed entertainment district near Scottsdale.”

For any NHL Coyotes fans. in Arizona, this will get your attention due to the team’s inability to secure a home stadium for the past two years.

At this point, we will want to stop and see who is making this claim. Do we trust them?

Arizona’s Family is a reputable news source in the valley; however, for this exercise, we will assume we do not know who they are. What do we do next?

We want to investigate who the source, Arizona Family, is. With a quick search, we can find their “About” page on their website. They provide a statement outlining who they are, who they serve, and who they are owned by.

Through further research, we find that Gray Media Group is a publicly traded media company that was founded in 1946 and they currently own or operate 180 stations across the U.S.

This seems like a solid source for news; let’s move on to the next step.

Now we want to find additional sources reporting on this story. To do this, I did a quick search of “Coyotes propose arena Scottsdale“. The search brings up multiple well-known sites, as well as some less familiar sites covering the same story.

I found the variations in headlines interesting. A lot of the other outlets provided headlines that stated more factual information in their titles. This was encouraging when researching the validity of the original claim, and I ended up learning more information from the additional coverage I reviewed. This leads us to the final step.

In the final step, we want to trace the information back to the original source, which in this case is the Arizona Coyotes themselves. On their website, they released a very detailed announcement of their plans. While the Arizona Family article did not have as much factual information as the original source, it did prove to be a true claim.

In this instance, I thought the initial post was playing on emotions a little and possibly trying to get clicks. By the end, I could see that they had played to emotion in their original post, but the claim they made was in fact correct and from a reputable source.

There are many instances where this process would uncover misinformation. As we head into a political season, it will be especially important for people to strengthen their media literacy and ability to fact-check information so as not to be misled.

Through the SIFT process, we are able to identify a source’s legitimacy and do our own fact-checking to see if a claim being made is true. This is a good practice to get into before taking a headline as fact or allowing ourselves to be misled by bad actors.

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