Der Spiegel, fact checking - IJF11 Perugia


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Le slide proposte da Hauke Janssen, responsabile del reparto Documentation del settimanale tedesco Der Spiegel, al Festival del Giornalismo di Perugia, durante la sessione dedicata al fact checking.

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Der Spiegel, fact checking - IJF11 Perugia

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  2. 2. 2<br />Fact Checking at DER SPIEGEL<br />Dr. Hauke Janssen, <br />Director, Dokumentation and Archives<br />SPIEGEL-Verlag, Hamburg, Germany<br />
  3. 3. 3<br />In the Beginning…<br />Certainly, no another publisher in the Federal Republic of Germany is so firmly convinced of the importance and the value of an archive, nor has another put this conviction into practice so thoroughly, than Rudolf Augstein (1923-2002), the founder and publisher of DER SPIEGEL.<br />A cardboard box full of newspaper clippings and news agency dispatches. That is how it began. Rudolf Augstein himself initiated it. Even as a schoolboy and, later, a soldier, he had collected news articles that seemed to him to be important.<br />
  4. 4. 4<br />In the Beginning…<br />The classification system branched out, inventory expanded. Soon there were hundreds, then thousands of meters of shelves. Augstein was satisfied and praised the “organization, which can conjure up the most extravagant information”.<br />The publisher went into the archives regularly and requested information: “We intend to write a big article soon about this and that, so start collecting documentary material about it!”<br />
  5. 5. 5<br />The SPIEGEL Archives Today:From a Paper Library to a Multimedia Internet Portal<br />Up to the late 1980’s, the SPIEGEL Dokumentation was a paper archive. <br />As from the nineties, the classic archives expanded into virtual space. The first fee-based online databases arose, followed by the Internet.<br />With the introduction of electronic composition and layout systems in the mid-nineties, digital archive versions of press products were generated more or less automatically – the birth of the modern archives.<br />
  6. 6. 6<br />The SPIEGEL Archives Today:From a Paper Library to a Multimedia Internet Portal<br />Today, SPIEGEL stores regularly 60,000 new articles each week in its Digital Archive System (Digas). They are collected from the over 300 sources reviewed on a regular basis – practically speaking, that includes the entire national German press as well as several international publications. Currently, more than 50 million text files and 5 million illustrations are stored in Digas.<br />Not only SPIEGEL archivists, but also SPIEGEL reporters can access Digas von any Internet-enabled workplace.<br />
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  8. 8. 8<br />Why Fact Checking?<br />We owe the realization that fact checking is necessary to mistakes, of course. When an archivist pointed out a mistake in an article that had already been printed, Augstein answered gruffly, „Well, check that in the future earlier, then.“<br />From that point on, fact checking became a fixed part of the duties of archive employees.<br />The famous SPIEGEL guidelines issued to all staff journalists in June, 1949, show this. They read in part: <br />
  9. 9. 9<br />In the SPIEGEL Guidelines (1949):<br />“Der SPIEGEL is a news magazine. Thus, it must <br />1) be current, <br />2) have lots of new news. SPIEGEL must contain more personal, more intimate and more background information than the daily press does …<br />All news, information and facts that SPIEGEL uses and publishes must be correct without fail. Each piece of news and each fact must be checked thoroughly before it is passed on to the news staff. All sources must be identified. When in doubt, it is better not to use a piece of information rather than to run the risk of an incorrect report.”<br />
  10. 10. 10<br />From an Archive to a Documentation Department…<br />Managing editor Hans Detlev Becker described this development:<br /> “Originally, the news library was only supposed to collect information (mostly in the form of press clippings). What started as collecting on the dragnet principle imperceptibly became information-gathering through research. Amidst the “chaos of the battlefield” of a newsroom, collecting and researching information for use in reporting imperceptibly became the exploitation of what was collected and gathered to prove what was claimed…”<br />
  11. 11. 11<br />Research and Fact Checking Today<br />The department is organized into “Referate” correspon-ding to the various desks in the news departments and employs circa 70 “documentation journalists”. <br />The documentation journalists check facts for the journalists and support them in their research. They are specialists, often with a doctorate, and include in their ranks biologists, physicists, lawyers, economists, MBAs, historians, scholars of Islam, military experts…<br />Most research today is carried out in external databases (Lexis-Nexis, Factiva, GBI-Genios…), on the Internet, more and more in social media, and in our home-made Digas, which permits full-text searches and research by means of our classification system.<br />
  12. 12. 12<br />Fact Checkingtoday<br />SPIEGEL journalists expect the „conscientious verification of the finished manuscript“.<br />This means that “any fact that is to be published will be checked to see if it is correct on its own and in context, employing the resources at hand and dependent on the time available”.<br />In turn, the Dokumentation expects to be given “fully researched articles and the material used in the research”.<br />After an article has been checked, the documentarist and the author discuss possible corrections until they agree on the final version. The news staff make the corrections to the manuscript. The Dokumentation checks the corrections a second time and also any other changes that may have been made in the meantime.<br />
  13. 13. 13<br />Excerptsfromthe Fact Checking Guidelines…<br />The manuscript will be read and every verifiable piece of information will be underlined.<br />Standardized marks will be used to denote statements as correct, incorrect, not verifiable, etc.<br />Correct facts and figures will be checked off. If corrections are necessary, they will be noted in red ink in the margin, using standard proofreading marks<br />The source of factual corrections and quotations must be given.<br />Corrections accepted by the author(s) will be checked off, the others will be marked n.ü. (not accepted).<br />
  14. 14. 14<br />Excerptsfromthe Fact Checking Guidelines…<br />When fact checking a manuscript, other and if possible more accurate sources than the author‘s sources should be used. <br />A statement is considered verified only if confirmed by reliable sources or experts.<br />If a source contradicts an author‘s statement, he must be notified of the contradiction during the discussion of the manuscript. If a fact is unverifiable, he must also be notified.<br />A journalist’s informant who is the object of an article may only be contacted after obtaining permission from the author.<br />Complex passages will be double-checked by the Dokumentation department specialized in the subject matter.<br />
  15. 15. 15<br />Excerptsfromthe Fact Checking Guidelines…<br />Sometimes the limited time available means that priorities must be set. In such cases, facts and statements that are the evident responsibility of the Documentation must be checked first and foremost.<br />The following points must be particularly observed:<br />Are the facts correct?<br />Are the times and dates correct?<br />Does the text contradict itself?<br />Are the names and offices/jobs correct?<br />Are the quotations correct (in wording and in context)?<br />How current and trustworthy are the sources used?<br />
  16. 16. 16<br />Fact Checking in practiceat der SPIEGEL<br />That is the theory. <br />I would like to show you a few examples of checked manuscripts to demonstrate the practice:<br />
  17. 17. 17<br />ExamplesofCheckedManuscripts<br /><ul><li>Notes easily legible
  18. 18. Sources indicated
  19. 19. Each line has been marked proved/probable/not verifiable/author’s research</li></li></ul><li>18<br />ExamplesofCheckedManuscripts<br /><ul><li>Somewhat less legible
  20. 20. More confusing</li></li></ul><li>19<br />ExamplesofCheckedManuscripts<br /><ul><li>Hard to read
  21. 21. What goes where?</li></li></ul><li>20<br />ExamplesofCheckedManuscripts<br /><ul><li>Graphics</li></li></ul><li>21<br />What’s the Use?<br />Accuracy is the basic pre-requisite for good journalism and objective reportage. <br />Journalists make mistakes, whether intended or not. Mistakes damage the most valuable asset of high-quality journalism: credibility. And that is, after all, the quality to which journalists refer most frequently to distinguish their journalism from the many subjective blogs and no-name newsletters on the Internet.<br />One method to reduce the probability of mistakes is verification, that is, checking facts before publication.<br />However, fact checking is not wide-spread in Germany. In a poll of 259 German newsrooms, only six said that a separate department examines articles for accuracy. That was in 2006. Today, there are probably fewer.<br />
  22. 22. 22<br />What‘stheUse?<br />At SPIEGEL, fact checking has been standard procedure for decades and is conducted on a much larger scale than at other media companies.<br />An exam thesis* counted 1153 corrections made by the Dokumentation in a single issue of DER SPIEGEL.<br />If questions of spelling and style are disregarded, there were still 449 mistakes and 400 imprecise passages, of which more than 85 percent were considered to be relevant or very relevant.<br />Nearly three-quarters of the approximately 1400 suggested changes were adopted as is. Another approximately 15 percent were adopted in a general sense. Only every eighth proposed change was rejected by the author.<br />Malte Nohrn: „Verifikation als Instrument des redaktionellen Qualitätsmanagements - eine Untersuchung beim Nachrichtenmagazin DER SPIEGEL“, Hamburg 2008.<br />
  23. 23. 23<br />The Importanceof Fact Checking<br />So what would happen if the SPIEGEL no longer did fact checking? An answer to that question comes, once again, from Hans Detlev Becker, the former editor-in-chief and Managing and for decades one of Rudolf Augstein’s closest associates.<br />“Der SPIEGEL could not have become what it is today without the systematic process of verification.”<br />“The legendary SPIEGEL archives established the reputation of DER SPIEGEL – for two reasons: [without them] 1) a lot of false statements would have been printed and 2) a lot of articles could not have been written.”<br />