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Fact Checking, Verification & Fake News

“Alternative Facts”: how do you cover powerful people who lie? From Oxford Institute

A crowdsourced set of materials on “alternative news” from the Oxford Institute: “Alternative Facts”: how do you cover  powerful people who lie? Thanks to Professor Jeff Jarvis for sharing this resource.

Ethical, strategic ideas for how the information world might approach the challenge of fake news

From ‘Fake news’: the best thing that’s happened to journalism Charlie Beck, London School of Economics

Journalists should:

  • Connect – be accessible and present on all platforms
  • Curate – help users to good content where ever it is
  • Be relevant – use users’ language and ‘listen’ creatively with data
  • Be expert – add value, insight, experience, context
  • Be truthful – fact checking, balance, accuracy
  • Be human – show empathy, diversity, constructive
  • Transparency – show sources, be accountable, allow criticism

The networks and other organizations that distribute news should:

Filter out fake news better

  • Give the user better signals of the quality of content
  • Promote better content through algorithms
  • Promote news literacy
  • Ensure more resource and reward goes to credible producers and publishers

Other authorities (government, business, education) should:

  • Communicate where the public communicate
  • Talk the right languages: conversational, human, even humorous
  • Be relevant
  • Open up
  • Be interactive
  • Be realistic – media has limited influence

Keep Fact-Checking

Fact-checking doesn’t ‘backfire,’ new study suggests,

  • Porter and Wood showed 8,100 subjects corrections to claims made by political figures on 36 different topics. Only on one of the 36 issues (the misperception that WMD were found in Iraq) did they detect a backfire effect.
  • But we have definitely not found any consistent evidence of factual backfire despite months of work on thousands of subjects. By and large, folks across the political spectrum were happy to move, at least some of the way, consistently with a factual intervention.

Here's a link to the new study referenced in the above article: The Elusive Backfire Effect: Mass Attitudes' Steadfast Factual Adherence, Aug. 5, 2016 by Thomas Wood, Ohio State University & Ethan Porter, University of Chicago; George Washington University

More info on Fact Checking:

API’s Fact-Checking Project findings: summarized in How to Fight Fake News and Misinformation? Research Helps Point the Way, MediaShift

  • The public has a positive view of fact-checking, although Republicans, as well as people who are less informed, educated and politically knowledgeable, view the format less favorably. Fact-checks generally help people become better informed and knowledgeable about the issues under discussion.
  • Fact-checking — even a single correction — can substantially reduce misperceptions, even in the long-term.
  • Tweets correcting falsehoods or retweets of those corrections are “completely swamped by the tweets making or repeating the claim,” although the amount of misinformation decreases over time. Sentiment toward fact-checking on Twitter is largely positive, and the targets of fact-checking are seen in a mostly negative light.

Show Your Work - Be Transparent

David Haglund referred to the Serial podcast as “show-your-work journalism.”  The reporting in that popular podcast ultimately resulted in a new criminal trial.

Showing your work, and being transparent about your reporting process is a tool to establish authenticity, and encourage discovery and engagement, according to Josh Stearns of the Democracy Fund Designing Journalism for Discovery and Engagement & Why Journalists Should Use Transparency as a Tool to Deepen Engagement.

Focus on Policy, Rather Than Antics

Focus on policy, rather than antics:

"The candidates’ controversies received more coverage, on average, than their views on the economy. From June until Election Day, 38 percent of the stories mentioned Mr. Trump’s various missteps, and 35 percent mentioned Mrs. Clinton’s email. Only 17 percent mentioned Mr. Trump and jobs or the economy, and only 10 percent cited Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the economy." Why This Election Was Not About the Issues, by Lynn Vavreck for The UpShot. Vavreck is a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a co-author of “The Gamble,” about the 2012 presidential campaign.

"As any veteran of politics will tell you, we must watch what leaders do more than what they say. It is vital that the press mind the cookie jar. We need journalists to watch for public malfeasance, stealing, corruption, law breaking, private enrichment, rewarding friends, and abuse of power...Abuse of power is not a partisan or ideological issue. It is a moral one—and one citizens in both parties care about. But to keep their eye on that prize, the press needs to not be diverted by the magician’s patter." What the post-Trump debate over journalism gets wrong, We don’t need journalists to hold fast or change everything, but a little of both, Tom Rosenthiel

"According to Emily Thorson, a political scientist at Boston College, there is one area where people will change their minds when faced with the facts: policy, particularly when it isn’t perceived to be partisan. By covering policies rather than candidates’ antics, the press may be able to persuade with facts after all.

"'There is a tendency to blame voters, but it’s really hard to find [policy] information. It’s hard to figure out what the candidates’ policies would actually mean for your life because the media spent so much time on horse-race coverage, what they did or didn’t say, or whether they were lying,' Thorson said. 'Academics have been saying this about journalism for a long time, but I think it was especially magnified in this campaign.'" Fact-Checking Won’t Save Us From Fake News, Brooke Borel, Author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, FiveThirtyEight

Community Engagement & Social Journalism

According to Carrie Brown-Smith, Social journalism director at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: Social journalism is about finding new ways to serve communities. To recast journalism as a service that helps communities meet their goals and solve problems. Listening to a community: understanding and empathizing with its needs and learning how to help a community share its own knowledge. 

Here's Carrie's list of Best Resources on Community Engagement and Social Journalism.

According to Jennifer Preston, Vice President for Journalism, Knight Foundation: "Quality journalism is a buttress against the torrent of fake news we've seen explode in the past year, and it can help rebuild the diminishing trust many people have in society's core institutions...At Knight, we are supporting projects to help journalists and news organizations build trust with their audience by engaging more directly with community residents."  5 Questions For...Philanthropy News Digest

Call Out Lies and Bigotry

The challenge for reporters, is that when they call out untruths, “it gives the appearance of supporting one side of the hyper-politicized debate. But it’s not support—it’s journalism.” “We need journalists to be able to say, sometimes: ‘You believe that, but it’s not true...But having a press that can do that is really hard. It requires not only journalists willing to defy powerful actors, willing to risk being called one-sided, willing to discomfort their audience, but also readers, viewers, listeners who are willing to listen to that.” Jay Rosen professor of journalism at New York University, cited in Post-Truth Politics, Nieman Reports.

"Responsible journalists should simply state to their audience that they have decided that to be anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, etc. is an acceptable form of bias, much as journalists of times past eventually decided it was unnecessary and abhorrent to get a quote from someone to defend lynching when writing a story about these horrific crimes."  What Journalism Needs To Do Post-Election, Carrie Brown-Smith, Social journalism director at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.