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Truth-O-Meter: Does Drinking Hot Tea Increase Your Risk of Cancer?

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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.

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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’sscreen-shot-2018-02-14-at-3-28-49-am 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.

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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.

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So long!

(Draft) Truth-O-Meter

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It is the super-bowl of fact-checking!!!! Not really, but it is the final Truth-O-Meter post where I will be investigating the credibility and trustworthiness of a specific source at hand. In my last post, I discussed some possible claims to discuss for this Truth-O-Meter post. In this 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, I am extremely curious to begin reading this article. 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 again 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 really explains the fundamental principles for fact-checking. He breaks 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 start by taking note of what site I am on, who is the author, and when was the post published or last revised. Usually, you can find that information before the start of the text.

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So, we can see that this post was is 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 it 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”.

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.

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We can begin going upstream 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 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 find 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 missed that.

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Before I continue to go upstream on the original study that I found, I just want to point out how the original 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”.

 

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In Today’s Post, I will be proposing three different possible claims to fact-check for a final “Truth-o-meter” post in the future. Discussing these three different claims will help me begin deciding which topics, claims, or images in the news are more complex and amplified.

Topic #1: “Here’s How Drinking Hot Tea Could Increase Your Risk of Cancer”.

  • I found this article originally under the TIME Health section, because I was interested in writing my final post on a topic surrounding current health issues. When I saw this headline, I was immediately attracted to the article because as an avid tea (and hot beverage drinker) THIS IS ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING! Especially, because certain types of tea like green tea, ginger tea, and lemon tea are known for preventing the growth of different cancer cells. Also, this is a fairly recent post (from earlier in the month) so I feel as if there may be some prevalent mistakes. I also feel like it would be interesting to fact-check TIME because many people consider it a highly credible source. The post also provides the “original study” and different links so there would be plenty to check up on!

Topic #2: “NYC Women Are The Nation’s Most Stressed: Study”

  • This headline showed up under Google news. I typed in recent studies, and this was the second headline I saw. I considered creating my final post based around fact-checking a recent study because there is usually a lot of information to double check and confirm its credibility. I quickly scanned the post and I see very few links and mention of the original study. There is also a significant amount of statistics which should always be checked. Since the post is again, very recent, there is a larger chance that there will be more mistakes. Also, the headline itself raises some questions. How is it possible that women in NYC are specifically the most stressed? I need details, therefore I figured this would be a good opportunity to do some upstream swimming.

Topic #3: “Drinking Alcohol Can Clear Brain Waste, Study Finds”

  • This headline grabbed my attention because it just seems too amplified to believe. I’m sure that many other readers instantly clicked on this link to see how many people’s favorite hobby could just be “improving” their health. I think this study would be “fun” to investigate because you could really dissect the whole post. Who is the author? There is someone who already fact-checked the post so I would be interested to learn what her findings are and to decipher how she went about checking these facts. In this post I can quickly scan that the author mentions “multiple studies” and doesn’t link to these studies or the original study for that matter. Seems like there could be some significant fact-checking to do here.

Which topic shall I choose, let’s get to it!

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#4 : Going Upstream

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Today we are going to do what all salmon and good fact-checkers do! And that is going “upstream” on a source to identify it’s credibility. I’ve discussed this idea in a few of my other posts, such as the Reading Laterally post where I describe the importance of finding background information about the source you are using. This includes using multiple other sources (other than the original one) to find out what other people and researchers have to say about the credibility of that source. However, today I’m not investigating a news website or opinon based blog, I will be investing a recent study.

To find a recent study, I went right over to Google and typed in “recent study” and then I went over to the News tab. Under that tab is multiple different recent studies ranging from topics about Pneumonia to Gender Identity and cardiology to antibiotics, and so on. I decided to choose the news study headlined “Recent Study Finds Correlation Between Pneumonia and Inversions Along Wasatch Front“. I picked this study because I feel that Influenza and Pneumonia are very prevalent and very life-threatening today, and I am interested in learning what the cause is. However, I was not really sure what the “Wasatch Front” was. So I went over to Google, and typed in Wasatch Front and the first link that popped up was from Wikipedia. I read what Wikipedia had to say and essentially “The Wasatch Front is a metropolitan region in the north-central part of the U.S. state of Utah. It is a chain of contiguous cities and towns stretched along the Wasatch Range”. So now, I now that I could understand the title more, I began to start reading.

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I clicked on the link and it brought me over to Utah State University Public Radio, apparently the article is written by Riana Gayle and it was published earlier in the month on February 6th. Already, I am intrigued for a few reasons. Since the article was published recently, I was positive that are some mistakes to be found. As I began reading the article, I can notice some significant spelling and grammatical errors which already symbolizes laziness. As I continue on with the post, I notice that it is also very short (only 8-10 paragraphs) and consists of a lot of numbers and quotations. It seems that almost every paragraph starts with quotation marks, but doesn’t end with a full quote, or quotation marks at all. Also, any sources they used in the post were from faculty at the University of Utah, the publisher of the post. The author Riana Gayle, has no link to her name, so we can’t really identify who she is… is she a student? faculty of the University? a Professional? we can’t know for sure. Then there is a 1:57 second podcast to go along with the post. As I am reading the post, I notice the study they mention has no link to the actual study itself which is certainly a red flag. The study throws in a lot of quotes from Dr. Cheryl Pirozzi, a Pulmonolgoist and assistant Professor of internal medicine at University of Utah Health, again another source from the publisher of the article. I’ve mentioned Michael Caulfield before, and he states in his book Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, 

“When confronted with a new site, they [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. And even if the site is generally trustworthy, it is inclined to paint the most favorable picture of its expertise and credibility possible”

This relates to the idea that if you have a source (like the post I’m discussing here) that constantly uses itself as a source for the point it is trying to prove, that it is probably untrustworthy because they are going off their own information (which may or may not be true). I  continued to read the article which primarily quoted Dr. Pirozzi about her thoughts on why people along the Wasatch Front are at higher risk. “As a community we should do everything we can to reduce air pollution in our area.. that would include driving less, using more fuel-efficient vehicles, making public transportation more available and using it and reducing industry emissions, especially during the inversions,” Pirozzi said.

Once I finally finished the article I saw “Details of the health study: Short-Term Air Pollution and Incident Pneumonia can be found here“. I clicked on that link and low and behold it brings us to the Study being mentioned at the beginning of the article! The study is titled “Short-Term Air Pollution and Incident Pneumonia: A Case-Crossover Study” and it is published by ATS Journals. I decided to initially research what ATS Journals is and what is their credibility looking like. The first couple links all go back to the ATS Journals website and their About Page, and as Caulfield states that’s no good. Wikipedia states “The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine is a biweekly peer-reviewed medical journal published in two yearly volumes by the American Thoracic Society”. So it is clearly a medical journal and the journal lists all of the authors name including Cheryl Pirozzi aka Dr. Pirozzi our once unknown source! You can click on her name and see all of the other journals she’s been published in. Another interesting thing I found was that the article was initially received on June 23, 2017, so when the University of Utah claims that there is a recent study that finds correlations it makes the reader assume that it is very recent (within a month or two) and in this case it’s already about seven months old. Other than that, It seems ATS Journals has good credibility and we can finally identify who Dr. Pirozzi is.

Although we could not identify who the author of the post is and although there are may spelling and grammatical errors, as well as some untied ends, we can still view the original study and make connections from the study to the recent post.

Reading Laterally

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Today, I am discussing what all “good fact checkers” do before trusting a certain website or source. It’s called Reading Literally, and essentially I am going to dig deeper into the website at hand to really determine how trustworthy the site is. When I’m working with a new site whether fact-checking or in any other research, the most important thing is to ensure that you are pulling information from a credible, accurate source. When approaching a new website, it is the perfect time to practice reading laterally. The first step in reading laterally is to not spend much time on the site itself.

“they {fact-checkers} get off the page and see what other authorities have said about the site. They open up many tabs in their browser, piecing together different bits of information from across the web to get a better picture of this site where they’ve landed. Many of the questions they ask are the same as the vertical readers scrolling up and down the pages of the source they are evaluating. But unlike those readers, they realize that the truth is more likely to be found in the network of links to (and commentaries about) the site than in the site itself”.

Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Michael A. Caulfield

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So, I decided to start with HuffPost, as it is a source that I use quite often whether for fact-checking or even when I’m looking for some reliable content! I thought it would be a good idea to find out just how reliable the Huffing Post is. For starters, I went over to Wikipedia, to find some background information about the HuffPost. (Keep in mind I know have about 5 tabs open now including the HuffPost, Wikipedia, Caulfield’s book, giphy.com, and some recipes for a yellow cake baked oatmeal but that’s neither here nor there). Wikipedia gives a pretty detail oriented explanation about the history of HuffPost and how the sources is a primarily liberal news and opinon blog. Wikipedia then goes on to discuss the different local and international editions of the HuffPost and then I saw the link labor disputes so I was sure that would spark some interest. Turns out in 2011, a magazine publisher known as Visual Art Source, had been cross-posting material from its website. They decided to go on strike against The Huffington Post and the National Writers Union and the Newspaper Guild decided to join and endorse the HuffPost, which dropped the boycott. So just by doing a little research on Wikipedia, I was able to find out that The Huffington Post has had boycotts pressed against them, but that they are also supported by two major writing unions. I also found from Wikipedia that again in 2011, the HuffPost was hit with a multimillion-dollar lawsuit due to thousands of uncompensated bloggers. The lawsuit was dismissed due to prejudice in March 2012, stating that the bloggers had volunteered their services, their compensation would include being published. So perhaps 2011-2012 was just a rough year for the HuffPost but nonetheless they have some strong support behind them proving them to be a well-suited source.

Now, the HuffPost provides a long list of all their different editors for the site, however it’s really essential to gain information about the source at hand from other websites and resources. Simply because the site isn’t going to discredit itself in any way, (essentially it’s not going to expose itself!) so that’s why we need to hear what other people have to say! I’m interested in the editors because that’s really who we turn to when deciding whether or not a fact or topic is reliable or not. The editors should follow a process of checking and revising while editing their work because it’s necessary for credibility purposes. Although the HuffPost provided a lengthy list of their editorial staff, I decided to do some quick research about their publication.

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The Huffington Post has many bloggers, from politicians and celebrities to academic and and professional experts who contribute on a wide range of topics. So finding one specific editor or publisher is pretty much impossible. This comes back to another idea brought up in Caulfield’s book that discusses blogs or websites that are opinion based.

“An opinion column that gets a fact or two wrong won’t cause its author much trouble, whereas an article in a newspaper that gets facts wrong may damage the reputation of the reporter. On the far ends of the spectrum, a single bad or retracted article by a scientist can ruin a career, whereas an advocacy blog site can twist facts daily with no consequences”.

Since we can’t exactly blame someone for all of the HuffPost’s articles and posts, I thought it would be interesting to research someone who as posted for the HuffPost. I found a web source titled “Erin’s Inside Job”, where a girl named Erin discusses getting published with the Huffington Post. Erin explained that when submitting her topic to HuffPost, she was certain to include three things; a e-mail pitch, the article itself, and a short biography and headshot. In the end, Erin explains…

“The person that I actually heard back from was Arianna Huffington {editor-in-chief of HuffPost} herself. After I emailed all of the appropriate editors, I took a long shot and emailed it to her as well. I figured the worst that could happen is that I didn’t hear back…She said that she was forwarding my information to one of her editors and I would receive more information shortly. Soon after that I received an invitation to The Huffington Post and was supplied blogging credentials”.

Although Erin’s description of her process wasn’t exactly detailed or note-worthy, I feel like it does give an inside look as to how the HuffPost does pay attention to the work they receive. As the editor-in-chief {Arianna Huffington} explained that she would be passing on the information to one of the many editors, I thought of this as a great big “green light” because it does prove that the HuffPost takes action in editing the work they receive and they don’t just post any submission that comes their way.

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