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Fact-checking in the newsroom: best practices, open questions

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Presentation by Gabriela Jacomella at the 2019 CMPF Summer School for Journalists and Media Practitioners - Covering Political Campaigns in the Age of Data, Algorithms & Artificial Intelligence

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Fact-checking in the newsroom: best practices, open questions

  1. 1. Fact-checking in the newsroom Best practices, open questions
  2. 2. What is fact-checking? What is fake news? Who is qualified to fight it?
  3. 3. What is “fake news”? Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan, Information Disorder: Toward an Interdisciplinary Framework for Research and Policymaking Council of Europe report, DGI(2017)09
  4. 4. Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan, Information Disorder: Toward an Interdisciplinary Framework for Research and Policymaking Council of Europe report, DGI(2017)09
  5. 5. …and what is “news”?
  6. 6. …and what is fact-checking anyways?
  7. 7. Who is qualified to fight disinformation? Journalists, debunkers, scientists, experts in a specific field… …but how do we avoid the Buddy Pine/Syndrome effect?
  8. 8. https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/ 1. A commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness 4. A commitment to transparency of methodology 3. A commitment to transparency of funding & organization 2. A commitment to transparency of sources 5. A commitment to an open & honest corrections policy
  9. 9. ➤ 66 verified signatories, 19 expired verified signatories https://www.poynter.org/ifcn/anti-misinformation-actions/ ➤188 organizations in more than 60 countries (Duke Reporters' Lab, 2019 census)
  10. 10. Is the newsroom the fact-checker’s natural environment? 1. All journalists should be fact-checkers and debunkers 2. Media outlets should provide training and dedicated spaces …what is your experience?
  11. 11. Some best practices: my (personal) fact-checking Oscars Life in the newsroom is hectic and constantly under pressure. In order to produce an effective fact-checking format, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions first: 1. Is it doable with the resources we have? 2. Is it appealing to the readers? 3. Is it easy to grasp? 4. Are we sure that we aren’t just giving ourselves a pat on the back?
  12. 12. A simple format that doesn’t cost much and appeals the readers If you ask any citizen in the world if they’ve come across disinformation or misinformation in the past year the answer will most probably be “yes.” “More than once.” If you keep the conversation going, they will tell you that on many occasions such deceiving pieces came in the form of images, videos, memes and screenshots instead of URLs. If you’re talking to someone that lives in a country that uses messaging apps such as WhatsApp they will most probably tell you that they received them on their cellphones. These are the three assumptions that we made when we at Maldito Bulo chose our debunking format. The disinformation we were seeing came in visual layouts, adapted to mobile devices and created to reach virality by being light to share and easy to consume. We decided to copy the “bad guys” in order to fight back. (…) We decided to try to make the facts as viral as the lies. And it worked. Clara Jiménez Cruz
  13. 13. Sometimes you do not even need a fact-checking format… …Trump was meandering, combative and inaccurate in many of his answers — attacking “fake news” CNN, referencing his uncle “John Trump at MIT” to crow about his understanding of nuclear weapons and repeatedly lampooning President Barack Obama, his predecessor. He again falsely stated that he had predicted Brexit one day before it happened, while visiting his Turnberry golf club, and said that the United States was responsible for 90 percent of NATO spending. (The United States accounted for 68.7 percent of NATO members’ combined defense spending last year, reflecting its superpower status and 3.57 percent of gross domestic product.) Trump also overstated the trade deficit with China and the number of troops in Germany. July 3, 2018 “Embedded fact-checks” “…In one or two sentences, reporters are increasingly noting when a politician makes a false claim. We analyzed stories from the AP, New York Times and Washington Post using this approach and found a steady increase since 2015.” Julianna Rennie and Bill Adair, ‘Embedded fact-checks’ shouldn’t just be about Trump, June 7, 2019
  14. 14. …while sometimes you must use nukes to get what you want 
 (and if you are VERY good at it, you’ll get it) https://twitter.com/BBCAfrica/status/1044186357751599105
  15. 15. Right, now that we enjoyed the pat on our backs…. "19 European media outlets from 13 countries are fact-checking the May 2019 European elections for you"
  16. 16. But what were the results? 1. Lack of polarization in EU elections 2. Less about people, more about ideas 3. Complexity (28 countries, 26 languages) 4. More interest (and more hoaxes) for local elections https://factcheckeu.info/en/article/fceu-newsletter-7-good-news-and-bad-news-after-election-week-end 81 fact-checks 3 days - 3 journalists 42 questions - 30 answers
  17. 17. This is precisely the problem: Scale and Impact From the point of view of journalists: ➽ how do we bring the fact-check to the readers? ➽ fact-check yourself first, and be accountable: it is all about rebuilding the trust cycle ➽ it is NOT about how good we are in correcting others, but about how good we are in admitting our mistakes first From the point of view of academics: ➽ backfire effect and polarisation: how much do we know? ➽ How do we measure the impact of disinformation/fact-checking in a world of hyperfragmented information? "First-generation fact-checking” is no longer good enough. Here’s what comes next”, Laura Hazard Owen, Nieman Lab, June 21, 2019
  18. 18. Thank you! gabriela.jacomella@eui.eu

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