What should journalists know about fact checking?
What should journalists know about fact-checking?
Fact-checking is a skill and a talent that is no longer on the sidelines. As more information starts to get piled on the web, dedicated journalists and agencies are taking the time out to check what holds and what’s just noise.
As more journalists shift to the online platform, some practices can act as lifesavers. It's important to study and practice fact-checking exercises to give out quality content pieces and ensure authenticity. There are several tools out there that can be used to check the accuracy of information; however, it usually takes long hours and a keen eye to find any potential misinformation.
There are plenty of people who call “journalists.”A good one is always on the lookout for a “scoop” — new information or new interpretations of existing data. But for them, a scoop is worthless if it’s based on bogus or misinterpreted data. These folks know where to look for content and how to filter bad content from the good.
What should you look for?
With the rise in fake news, blind faith is probably not the high road to take. It’s important, as journalists, to actively seek authentic information and promote the same. This also includes calling out on fake news. As a journalist, you have access to a wide range of sources and information. More importantly, you know where to look.
Upon finding a story you may have doubts about - Ask the right questions. Does the story give you enough information to sell what it’s saying? Does it have additional information? Links, images, audio or visual recording, etc.
Verify - there’s no need to believe all that you read. Always take the extra step of verifying the information that is presented. If it’s a statistical number, an image, video recording, or even a quote - reach out to sources to verify if the information holds. Of course, as a journalist, doing this as a part of your story publishing process will ensure that you do not end up posting fake news.
Is it Believable?
While looking for content, you want to check whether the reporter of the specific story has done a good job reporting. Is the information all there? Does it answer all the questions? Especially when the story appears odd or “unbelievable”. Look for signs if you’re skeptical about the story.
Often when a reporter has authentic information, they try to convey all details to their readers to give them a 360-degree view of the situation. In cases where the reporter has delivered what they believe to be true, you will see some contradictions or loops. It’s important to look for blank spaces that don’t add up to identify a false stated story.
How certain can you be?
Official sites - government sites, global press agencies, global organizations, etc.
As a journalist, you can always use weasel words that show that you do not claim complete certainty. This allows scope for the growth of the story or information. This also means that you do not put wrong statements on your website.
It’s important to add to stories as well. If you don’t have enough information but want to break the story nonetheless, it’s a good idea to update your story as you collect more data. This ensures that the audience is made aware of the news - but only the bit that is verified.
Making use of audience engagement can also help with content verification. Having a proactive user base that verifies content, gives testimonials, personal accounts on relevant stories can help add flavor to the story. Users are informed and therefore having a comment section or some form of active feedback could facilitate fact-checking.