Keeping a sense of community in the IFCN
For Global Fact 8, a reminder of the IFCN's important role bringing fact-checkers together.
By Bill Adair – October 20, 2021 | Print this article
My opening remarks for Global Fact 8 on Oct. 20, 2021, delivered for the second consecutive year from Oslo, Norway.
Welcome to Norway!
(Pants on Fire!)
It’s great to be here once again among your fiords and gnomes and your great Norwegian meatballs!
(Pants on Fire!)
What….I’m not in Norway?
Well, it turns out I’m still in Durham…again!
And once again we are joined together through the magic of video and more importantly by our strong sense of community. That’s the theme of my remarks today.
Seven years ago, a bunch of us crammed into a classroom in London. I had organized the conference with Poynter because I had heard from several of you that there was a desire for us to come together. It was a magical experience that we all had in the London School of Economics. We were able to discuss our common experiences and challenges.
As I noted in a past speech, one of our early supporters, Tom Glaisyer of the Democracy Fund, gave us some critical advice when I was planning the meeting with the folks at Poynter. Tom said, “Build a community, not an association.” His point was that we should be open and welcoming and that we shouldn’t erect barriers about who could take part in our group. That’s been an important principle in the IFCN and one that’s been possible with Poynter as our home.
You can see the community every week in our email listserv. Have you looked at some of those threads? Lately they’ve helped fact-checkers find the status of COVID passports in countries around the world, learn which countries allow indoor dining and which were still in lockdown. All of that is possible because of the wonderful way we help each other.
Global Fact keeps getting bigger and bigger. It was so big in Cape Town that we needed a drone to take our group photo. At this rate, for our next-get-together, we’ll need to take the group photo from a satellite.
Tom’s advice has served us really well. By establishing the IFCN as a program within the Poynter Institute, a globally renowned journalism organization, we have not only built a community, we avoided the bureaucracy and frustration of creating a whole new organization.
We stood up the IFCN quickly, and it became a wonderfully global organization, with a staff and advisory board that represents a mix of fact-checkers from every continent — except for Antarctica (at least not yet!).
Our community succeeded in creating a common Code of Principles that may well be the only ethical framework in journalism that includes a real verification and enforcement mechanism.
The Poynter-based IFCN, with its many connections in journalism and tech, has raised millions of dollars for fact-checkers all over the world.
And we have done all this without bloated overhead, new legal entities and insular meetings that would distract us from our real work — finding facts and dispelling bullshit. For most fact-checkers, running our own organizations or struggling for resources within our newsrooms is already time-consuming enough.
As we look to the future, some fact-checkers from around the world have offered ideas at how the IFCN can improve. I like many of their suggestions.
Let’s start with the money the IFCN distributes. The fundraising I mentioned is amazing — more than $3 million since March 2020. It’s pretty cool how that gets distributed – All of that money came from major tech companies in the United States and 84% of the money goes to fact-checkers OUTSIDE the US.
But we can be even more transparent about all of that, just as IFCN’s principles demand transparency of its signatories. We can also continue to expand the advisory board to be even more representative of our growing community.
Some other improvements:
We should demand more data and transparency from our funders in the tech community. Fact-checkers also can advocate to make sure that our large tech partners treat members of our community fairly. And we can work together more closely to find new sources of revenue to pay for our work, whether that’s through IFCN or other collaborations.
One possible way is to arrange a system so fact-checkers can get paid for publishing fact-checks with ClaimReview, the tagging system that our Reporters’ Lab developed with Google and Jigsaw. (A bit of our own transparency – they supported our work on that and a similar product for images and video called MediaReview.) Our goal at Duke is to help fact-checkers expand their audiences and create new ways for you to get paid for your important work.
Our community also needs more diverse funding sources, to avoid relying too heavily on any one company or sector. But we also need to be realistic and recognize the financial and legal limitations of the funders, and of our fact-checkers, which represent an incredibly wide range of business models. Some of you have good ideas about that. And we should be talking more about all of that.
The IFCN and Global Fact provide essential venues for us to discuss these issues and make progress together – as do the regional fact-checking collaboratives and networks, from Latin America to Central Europe to Africa, and the numerous country-specific collaborations in Japan, Indonesia and elsewhere. What a dazzling movement we have built – together.
If there’s a message in all this is that all of us need to convene and talk more often. The pandemic has made that difficult. This is the second year we have to meet virtually — and like most of you, I too am sick of talking to my laptop, as I am now.
For now, though, let’s be grateful for the community we have. It’s sunny here in Norway today
[Pants on Fire!]
I’m looking forward to seeing you in person next year!