This is my final Truth-O-Meter post, where I will be investigating the credibility and trustworthiness of a specific source at hand. In a previous post, I discussed some possible claims to discuss for this final Truth-O-Meter post. I am hoping to complete a full fact-check analysis on a claim or image that is more complex than it appears when most people encounter it. Therefore, I decided to choose the post that had the most surprising headline in my opinion.
This Truth-O-Meter will evaluate an article I found from TIME Magazine. The headline reads “Here’s How Drinking Hot Tea Could Increase Your Risk of Cancer“. Now as an avid tea and hot beverage drinker, this headline instantly grabs my interest. I have grown up believing that tea is one of the healthiest things you can drink and that tea is actually supposed to stop the growth of cancer cells! Is this post about to shatter everything I’ve ever believed about one of my beloved drinks? We’ll see.
To start I want to explain (as I’ve done in earlier posts), what will be involved in the fact-checking process. As I began learning what it means to fact-check, I referred to Michael Caulfield’s Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers for some great advice. Caulfield explains the fundamental principles for fact-checking. He breaks it down into “Four Moves” and explains that when fact-checking you should:
- Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim.
- Go upstream to the source: Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
- Read laterally: Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
- Circle back: If you get lost, or hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now.
To start with this TIME Magazine post, I will start by taking note of what site I am on, identify who the author is, and acknowledge when the post was published or last revised. Usually, you can find that information before the start of the text.
Here, we can see that this post was clearly posted on the the Time website under TIME Health. The post was written by Jamie Ducharme and was published recently on February 5, 2018. This is all seemingly normal but we can’t really identify who Jamie Ducharme is. When you click on the link that is Jamie’s name, it only brings you to another one of Time Magazine’s pages that has any articles Ducharme has written for Time. This is where I start to bring Caulfield’s practices into play. I can begin reading laterally, by visiting other web sources to see what comes up about Jamie Ducharme as an author. Although it is a minor step, there’s no harm in opening another tab (one of many!) to research the author at hand. Caulfield explains…
“When confronted with a new site, they [most people] poke around the site, and try to find out what the site says about itself, by going to the “about page”, clicking around in onsite author biographies, or scrolling up or down the page. This makes no sense. If the site is untrustworthy, then what the site says about itself is most likely untrustworthy as well”. Michael Caulfield
I stray away from Time, and Google Jamie Ducharme’s name. I can gather from a site called Muck Rack that Ducharme is clearly a News and Health Reporter for Time Magazine, but previously used to work for Boston Magazine. Muck Rack claims Ducharme is “verified” author and she’s been published in some notable websites such as Women’s Health Magazine, the Boston Herald, Marie Claire, Travel + Leisure, and a few others. At least now we have an idea of whose word we are listening to, we can gather that Ducharme is a reputable, published author.
We can begin going upstream in this pos t as early as the first paragraph. I click on the link “a new study published monday“, and it brings me to the Annals of Internal Medicine website, to a page that cannot be found. So that’s an issue because as the reader we want to be able to click on the source and identify the study that is being referred to. That could be a mistake on Ducharme’s part or the ACP website’s fault. However, it’s clear that now I will need to try and search for the study myself, so I head over to Google and search “hot tea could increase your risk of cancer original study annals of internal medicine”. Sure enough, I find the original study three links down titled “Effect of Hot Tea Consumption and Its Interactions With Alcohol and Tobacco Use on the Risk for Esophageal Cancer: A Population-Based Cohort Study”. When you click on the link it brings you right over to the Annals of Internal Medicine website, to the original study. It makes me question how Time or the author, Ducharme, could have messed that up.
Before I continue to go upstream on the original study that I found, I just want to point out how the study mentions hot tea consumption and its interactions with alcohol and tobacco whereas the the Time article just says “How Drinking Hot Tea Could Increase Your Risk of Cancer”. I feel the Time article is more vague because it wants to send off the alarming signal. I’m sure that many people, similar to myself, had the same shocking reaction to the idea that consuming hot tea can increase you risk of cancer. Once you continue to read the Time article, aside from the headline, the article begins to mention that if you are a smoker or drinker of alcohol that you are at higher risk for esophageal cancer specifically if you also drink hot tea.
“Among people who regularly smoked cigarettes and drank at least one drink per day, drinking hot tea was linked to a five-times higher risk of developing esophageal cancer, compared to those who didn’t do any of those three habits. In people who didn’t have those two vices, however, drinking tea did not seem to have a significant effect on cancer development”. Time Magazine
This quotation essentially answers the headline of the article “Here’s How Drinking Hot Tea Could Increase Your Risk of Cancer”. When you search the topic or article, the first thing that pops up is “Drinking Hot Tea Could Raise Your Risk of Cancer”. It’s interesting how the headline for the this same article shows up differently when you search it. This shows how headlines are constructed to initially grab the readers attention regardless of the facts of the story.
It seems the Time article is essentially valid, I can sleep peacefully knowing that just drinking hot tea will not place you at a higher risk of having cancer. The main point of the article is to keep away from both tobacco and excessive alcohol use since it is the main cause for esophageal cancer. I decide to circle back, as Caulfield states, and go back to the original study to do a final check up on the credibility of the journal that published study. Wikipedia states…
“Annals of Internal Medicine is an academic medical journal published by the American College of Physicians. It is one of the most widely cited and influential specialty medical journals in the world”. Wikipedia
Usually medical journals are very credible due to their high impact factors and peer-review processes. The peer review process aims to ensure manuscripts selected for publication actually help to advance clinical medicine. I decide I want to check one more source, other than Wikipedia, to ensure the credibility of Annals. I type in “credibility of annals medical journal” in Google, and go down to the second link, as the first is Wikipedia. It brings me over to the Health Writer Hub, which is a website that is meant to advance communication in healthcare. The Hub claims that Annals is one of the top medical journals in the world.
“The Annals of Internal Medicine is ranked fifth among general medical journals. The journal has an impact factor (2013) of 16.104, the highest for a general and internal medicine (internists) speciality journal. Annals publishes a range of research articles from meta-analyses to letters to the editor. The journal only accepts about 7% of original research manuscripts that are submitted for publication”. The Health Writer Hub
Since The Hub, explains that the journal only accepts about 7% of original research, this helps ensure that the content seen on the journal is throughly evaluated and edited. Overall, I feel very confident in trusting the original study from Annals and the credibility is highly supported through multiple different sources. Although the Time article is vague, contains some mistakes, and doesn’t state the main idea in the headline, The source/study provided for the Time article is credible and true, which means my work here is done! Thanks to Michael Caulfield, I was able to use these fact-checking strategies to successfully prove this post to be true.