The Sift: LeBron’s words twisted | Fake Saturn photo | News on TikTok

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Teach news literacy this week
LeBron's words twisted | Fake Saturn photo | News on TikTok

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Viral rumor rundown

NO: LeBron James did not say he didn't want anything to do with white people. YES: In the first episode of the HBO show The Shop in 2018, James shared that he was initially wary of white people at his predominantly white Catholic high school in Akron, Ohio. YES: In telling this story on The Shop, James said [link warning: profanity], “when I first went to the ninth grade … I was so institutionalized, growing up in the hood, it’s like … they don’t want us to succeed … so I’m like, I’m going to this school to play ball, and that’s it. I don’t want nothing to do with white people. I don’t believe that they want anything to do with me.” YES: The conversation went on to clarify that these initial feelings soon changed as sports and basketball created friendships.

Note: This misleading quote has gone viral several times before. It recently recirculated after James tweeted a photo of a police officer who was identified as firing the shots that killed Ma'Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, on April 20, along with the message “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY.” James later deleted the tweet.

Also note: This Entertainment Tonight clip includes footage of this quote in context that is more appropriate for classroom use.



NO: This is not a photo of Saturn. YES: It’s an artistic rendering of the imagined view from the Cassini spacecraft during one of its final, close passes over Saturn in 2017.

Tip: Fake or doctored photos supposedly from space are a common type of “engagement bait” online.

Idea: Use a copy of this image (see the viral rumor example slides linked below) to teach students how to use a reverse image search to determine the original source for this image.

Resource: Reverse image search tutorial (NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom).


NO: COVID-19 is not automatically declared the cause of death for anyone who dies within 20 days of testing positive for the virus. YES: The cause of death in the United States is determined by local coroners, medical examiners, and other officials across more than 2,000 independent jurisdictions, according to the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, who was interviewed by Lead Stories. NO: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not control death certificate decisions and has no authority to overrule local medical examiners. NO: There is no conspiracy to falsely inflate the number of COVID-19 deaths.

Related: “How COVID Death Counts Become the Stuff of Conspiracy Theories” (Victoria Knight and Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News).


NO: This video is not live footage of a gas station explosion. YES: This May 7 post on Facebook appears to use video footage from 2014 of a fire exploding at a gas station in Russia, according to the fact-checker Lead Stories.

Note: This is another example of “engagement bait.”

Tip: You can use reverse image search to look for the origin of videos by taking screenshots of different video frames.

Related: “How to find the source of a video (or, how to do a reverse video search)” (Gaelle Faure, AFP Fact Check).

You can find a copy of this week’s examples here.

Journalists sometimes speak their own language. From “lede” to “nut graf” and “dateline” to “byline” — it can be hard to keep track! We’ve introduced a lot of newsroom lingo in News Goggles this year. This week, let’s take a look back and review some of these common key terms. See if you can spot them in news coverage. With practice, you’ll be speaking like a journalist in no time!

★ Featured News Goggles resource: These classroom-ready slides offer a vocabulary review, discussion questions and a teaching idea.

Discuss: Do you have a favorite journalism term? Were any of these terms completely new to you? Were any surprising? Do you think any of them are confusing? Will you start using any of the terms, such as “graf”?

Idea: Challenge students in groups to find examples of each term in news reports and share their findings with classmates.

★ Sift Picks


“How TikTok personalities are making a name for themselves by delivering news to Gen Z” (Kalina Newman, The Washington Post Magazine).

TikTok videos that aggregate news and offer brief rundowns of the latest headlines are attracting millions of views, many of them among young people, as part of a growing trend on the video platform. About half of Gen Z — often defined as those born in 1997 or after — who use social media as a news source reported getting news on TikTok in a 2020 survey from YPulse, a youth marketing research firm. TikTok “news personalities” are not associated with traditional news organizations but have created videos on some of the year’s biggest stories. The accounts featured in this Washington Post piece, for instance, have tackled topics that include Election Day 2020, pandemic travel restrictions and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Marcus DiPaola, who posts quick news updates and has 2.5 million followers on TikTok, told the Post: “I want to be the translator from mainstream media to teenagers.”


Discuss: Describe your own news consumption habits on social media. Do you prefer getting news through video or text? Why? Is the length of a news report a factor? Do you follow any “TikTok personalities” for news? Can people be as informed through shorter news forms (including video or text) as they are through longer pieces of journalism? How do you determine if information in TikTok videos is accurate?

Idea: Have students compile a list of TikTok accounts that they turn to for news or to stay informed and evaluate them. Then ask students to determine the primary purpose of content on these accounts (inform, persuade, entertain, etc.). Do they provide straight news reports, or just commentary and opinion? Do they do any original reporting, or do they just aggregate stories from other news organizations? Finally, have students select and fact-check a TikTok video on a recent news story.

Resource: “InfoZones” (NLP’s Checkology virtual classroom).


Quick Picks

“‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation” (Max Fisher, The New York Times).

  • Discuss: Why is misinformation such a problem when people have better access to credible information now than ever? Do you think most people practice “truth-seeking” (trying to be reliably informed) on social media, or are they seeking something else? Are people’s identities and political affiliations more important to them than truth and accuracy? Do you think that the feedback people get on social media — in the form of likes, shares, comments, etc. — affects what kind of information they share?
  • Idea: Ask students to interview five friends or family members about what motivates them to like and share information on social media. (Are people moved to share information they think is important and credible, or are they engaging in “us versus them” identity building?) Then have students share their findings.
  • Resource: “Misinformation” (NLP’s Checkology virtual classroom).

“Should kids be taking Fake News 101?” (Marketplace Tech).

  • Related: Student Opinion: “Should Media Literacy Be a Required Course in School?” (Michael Gonchar and Jeremy Engle, The New York Times).
  • Discuss: Have you ever fallen for misinformation online? How often do you make sure something is real before sharing it? Do you agree that it is “just a natural human reaction to not want to seek challenging views”? Do you ever seek out opposing views? Why is “seeking out diversity of thought” important?
  • Idea: Have students listen to this podcast episode (click the play button near the top of the page). Then ask students to pick a current controversial issue with multiple legitimate sides that they have strong feelings about. Challenge them to consider the opposing side of this issue. Finally, have students argue in support of the opposing view in a written response, social media post(s) or other format.

“Trump's Facebook ban upheld by Oversight Board” (David Ingram, NBC News).

  • Discuss: Do you think social media platforms should have different community standards for high-profile users with large followings? Do you think social media platforms should have a special policy for political leaders? Do you think that policy should be more permissive (to protect the public’s need to know what public officials are saying) or more restrictive (due to political leaders’ influence and power)? Should social media platforms remove posts and/or accounts that could cause real-world violence? Why or why not? What criteria should they use to determine this?
  • Related:

“Study: Conservative media drove belief of Covid-19 conspiracies” (Brianna Keilar, CNN’s New Day).

  • Note: This CNN report is based on a new study that examined whether a reliance on certain news sources and social media in the United States impacted people’s belief in COVID-19 falsehoods.
  • Discuss: Why do you think “familiarity with information increases the likelihood that you think it’s accurate”? What kinds of false information have you encountered about the pandemic? What are some possible real-world consequences of believing COVID-19 falsehoods? Can likes and shares of misinformation on social media cause harm?
  • Resource: “Conspiratorial Thinking” (NLP’s Checkology virtual classroom).

What else did we find this week? Here's our list.


Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of The Sift is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Suzannah Gonzales and Hannah Covington (@HannahCov), and edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane).

You’ll find teachable moments from our previous issues in the archives. Send your suggestions and success stories to [email protected].

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Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.