WAN-IFRA

A publication of the World Editors Forum

Date

Sat - 23.08.2014


fact-checking

a “boot camp” for journalists

Reddit is a great training tool for writers because unlike on Facebook and Twitter, users cannot lean on their followers and friends to make their posts successful. Instead, each post’s quality of writing and message is individually evaluated. Each post has an equal likelihood of making it to the site’s front page at its genesis, regardless of its author. Thus large follower bases aren’t rewarded, as they would be on Twitter and Facebook. What’s instead rewarded is concise and witty writing, the length of “half-tweets” — the same skills vital for writing headlines, which in the digital era are more important than ever. And with the deluge of posts on the site (last month there were over 55 million unique Redditors), users must hone these skills for their writing to make the front page.

Author

Kira Witkin's picture

Kira Witkin

Date

2013-04-04 12:29

Politifact takes statements by politicians and pundits, creator and editor Bill Adair explained, and investigates whether they are true or false. Each statement is given a rating, from ‘true’ to ‘pants on fire, and this is displayed on a ‘Truth-O-Meter’ at the start of each story.

Part of the role of the Truth-O-Meter is that it provides an easily-accessible summary of the conclusion of the fact-checking process, so that even if people don’t want to read the whole story, they will still be able to tell if a statement was true or not. “I am always amazed by the people in journalism who believe that everyone should read every long article,” Adair said.

The most important question when deciding which statements to fact check is “would your average reader look at that and wonder – is it true?” The second is, is it verifiable? By its very nature, fact-checking is about checking facts, not opinions and predictions. If there is clearly going to be a lack of consensus, Politifact will publish an article but won’t necessarily do a fact-check.

Politifact now partners with papers in ten states across the US. “This is radically different journalism,” Adair said. “You are saying that the President of the United States made a false statement.” With this in mind, he has laid out the essentials of the fact-checking process:

Author

Emma Goodman's picture

Emma Goodman

Date

2013-03-13 01:11

The Washington Post has developed a prototype of a news application that could be used to fact-check live speeches and debates. The app is called Truth Teller, and it was built with funding from the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund

According to the paper’s executive producer for digital news, Cory Haik, the project was inspired by politics editor Steven Ginsberg’s visit to a Michele Bachmann rally in August 2011, where the politician repeatedly misled her audience. Ginsberg realized that nobody in attendance seemed to be know they were being misled, and thus the idea to create a real time fact checking device was born.

Author

Emma Goodman's picture

Emma Goodman

Date

2013-01-29 18:54

5. Memory lane, by ABC News via the Huffington Post

Let’s start from the beginning: Nixon slammed his knee on a car door for the second time, and an aid applied a coat of “lazy shave” to hide his six o’clock shadow. Meanwhile, JFK was changing from a white shirt into a light blue one to avoid glare in his televised image.

September 26, 1960 marked a milestone in political journalism: it was the first time that a pair of U.S. presidential hopefuls had ever faced off before their country for a live, televised debate.

The candidates were John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Richard Millhous Nixon. For American voters, it was an unprecedented opportunity to watch their two presidential candidates duke it out, from the comfort of their homes.

Ten sets of televised debates later, not only do many American voters still tune in from their living rooms, but tens of millions of people around the world stream the action- and participate in the commentary it engenders- from a plethora of devices.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-10-04 15:36

On January 12 Arthur Brisbane, the New York Times Public Editor wrote a post on his blog entitled "Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?"

"I'm looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge "facts" that are asserted by newsmakers they write about," he continued.

The community promptly reacted and the debate grew fast. Tweets gathered and readers, journalists and media commentators flooded the web with comments. Often sarcastic comments.

Even the New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson answered in a note that Brisbane appended to the update of the blog-post he wrote to clarify his original question.

Basically the predictable reaction is that of course Times journalists - as well all other journalists - should do "a rigorous fact-checking and truth-testing" job, in the words of Abramson. Rather they actually do it, most claimed.

In fact journalists reacting to the article seem quite incredulous about it how obvious the answer was from their point of view.

Author

Federica Cherubini's picture

Federica Cherubini

Date

2012-01-13 19:00

Samuel Laurent, political journalist at LeMonde.fr talked about real-time fact checking today at "Les Nouvelles Pratiques du Journalisme" conference, hosted by the Ecole de Journalisme de Sciences Po, Paris, in collaboration with the Columbia Journalism School.

Fact-checking in real time - verifying the truth of statements made by politicians and public figures in real time during press conferences or public appearances - is becoming an important part of political communication nowadays, says Laurent.

The fact-checking in France, even if it's not completely developed, is growing. And it fits in with the Anglo-Saxon tradition of news watchdogging.

Real-time fact-checking has to be extremely fast to be effective. "You have to react immediately," Laurent says, "because a fact-check published one week after the statement doesn't have the same impact".

It's an ambitious job: it requires speed but, at the same time, enough knowledge to be able to contextualise statements. It demands the ability to provide the right link at the right moment. At lemonde.fr, a team of four journalists works on a real-time fact checking event: one's writing, one is dedicated to the community management and the other two to the contextualisation.

Author

Federica Cherubini's picture

Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-12-02 17:03

In the MIT Media Lab, Dan Schultz, newly named Knight-Mozilla fellow, is working on something that could benefit journalists and readers alike, Nieman Lab reports. His invention could change the way you see the world - but he is not developing a pair of rose tinted spectacles - Schultz is creating "truth goggles".

These "truth goggles" are intended to take the form of open source software that journalists and readers alike can download for free and then, when they read articles, any claims that seem to be founded on dubious information would be highlighted and brought to the readers attention.

The software will rely on natural language processing, the same kind of technology that enables Siri to understand human speech, and analyse articles looking for statements that match subjects covered by research contained in the PoltiFact database. Subjects discussed in articles that match the database can then be given an equivalent rating, from 'true' all the way down to 'pants on fire'.

Author

Katherine Travers

Date

2011-11-24 13:28

Newspapers straddle an awkward position in these days of instantaneous digital press. To stay relevant, they need to update top stories relentlessly, responding to readers' thirst for new details. At the same time, newspapers need to retain the quality of information diffused. Untrue statements and details undermine their worth.

Legal investigations are a long, slow process. Testimony must be verified, prosecutors must collaborate with police, and the entire procedure must be done carefully to avoid missteps that might compromise a case. To keep up with readers' impatience, the digital press finds ways to keep an unfolding story interesting, always moving quickly to new page-view optimizing revelations.

The sensational Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) case is a perfect example of the tension between the media and the legal system. The case is currently at an unsure juncture (the victim's credibility is in question) and the media is back-pedaling to accommodate new details. Gilles Bridier of Slate.fr examines the press' treatment of the case, and draws a lesson for journalists.

Noting that the freedom of the press' right does not trump the legal system's independence, Bridier reflected on how the press seemed to flaunt DSK's presumption of innocence. According to him, commentators and journalists assumed speculation was true to justify or plump up their stories.

Author

Florence Pichon

Date

2011-07-07 15:59

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