Duke Reporters' Lab students

What we did on our summer vacation — Part 1

Students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program are holding a variety of summer internships

By Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi – July 18, 2017 | Print this article

During the next several weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the summer internships held by students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program and the Duke Reporters’ Lab. The students below are all working at journalism internships, but others are exploring fields such as political consulting and speechwriting.

Asa Royal – Tampa Bay Times

In his first two months at the Tampa Bay Times, Asa Royal has written about local politics, a cemetery and an 800-pound fish. His article on a goliath grouper harassing local fishermen even made it on the front page of the print edition.

Royal is interning as a general assignment reporter at the St. Petersburg, Fla., newspaper, which means every day he may need to explore a completely new topic.

“Day-to-day, I’m pursuing pitches I’ve gotten from editors, cold-calling officials and figuring out ways to convert a notebook full of information I think is interesting into a story that readers will think is interesting,” Royal said.

Royal, a computer science major and the previous co-chair of the Duke Chronicle editorial board, had limited experience in news reporting when he began the internship. His classes for the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate had taught him the basics, but the immersive experience of day-to-day reporting has given him a much richer understanding of what journalism is like. He also has enjoyed the characters and issues about which he has written.

He closely follows national politics, so the experience of reporting on local news has been eye-opening. His most memorable story involved a black socialist party’s mayoral endorsement ceremony. Royal was struck by how local politics is different.

What matters in a mayoral race are issues such as the success of a certain school or the design of certain neighborhood infrastructure, he discovered.

Royal has been energized by the questions that the local issues raise.

“Every day, I sit next to reporters who can answer those questions,” Royal said. “They know more about their beats than I will ever know in my lifetime. So it’s been a humbling and incredible experience to spend time with them and see for myself that, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know that much.”

Mitchell Gladstone – Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia

Mitchell Gladstone is taking the plunge into the fanatical world of Philadelphia sports. A regular workday might find him covering a Phillies game, an Eagles training camp, or even the 76ers’ NBA draft preparations.

Working as a digital media writing intern for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, Gladstone reports on all four of the city’s major professional sports teams: the Phillies the Eagles, the Flyers, and the 76ers. He also covers a variety of other college and local sports.

As the incoming sports managing editor for the Duke Chronicle, Gladstone is excited to use this summer’s experience to reimagine the Chronicle’s online platforms. He said he has been amazed to learn of the intricate operations involved in running an effective news website.

“At CSN, a web producer is not only writing and editing, but constantly moving stories around on the main and team pages,” Gladstone said. “There’s also the tasks of constantly changing the main block with stories and photos, as well as setting the streams for live baseball games and other newsworthy events. It’s also critical to get out immediate breaking news tweets and app alerts, all things that I’m not used to in my daily work at school.”

Of the stories Gladstone has covered, interviewing pinch-hitter Ty Kelly after his game-winning hit for the Phillies against the Boston Red Sox ranks among his most entertaining experiences. Kelly, who had only joined the Phillies’ roster two months previously, was himself startled by his unlikely but decisive play. Gladstone is looking forward to profiling outfielder Mickey Moniak, the team’s No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 MLB draft.

Above all, Gladstone said he has enjoyed the simple pleasures of writing for a large audience.

“When you look up on the wall and see how many people are looking at your story, there’s a sense of pride knowing that you can hang with those who are doing this as a full-time, salaried job,” he said. “It reminds you that you can do whatever you love so long as you give it the passion and energy it deserves.”

Katherine Berko – ARLNow

From the visa issues of pool lifeguards to up-and-coming startups and county government decisions, Katherine Berko is focusing on community news.

Berko is interning at ARLNow, the flagship of Local News Now, a company that delivers online local news in the Washington suburbs.

“I write about everything,” Berko said. “I’ve covered events like the opening of a new tattoo shop to local leaders’ reactions to Trump’s climate decisions to a meal kit startup to homelessness in the area to a short piece about a stick of deodorant that was on top of the bus stop for over a week. Now that was funny!”

Berko, a student seeking the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate, has taken courses in newswriting and local news during her time at Duke. She was introduced to the inner workings of local government in a class called The Durham City Beat, while another class, News as a Moral Battleground, enabled her to develop an ethical lens into journalism. Both classes have given her valuable and practical insights into her current reporting.

For Berko, covering a community is a great way to get an in-depth understanding of the people and their local government. Berko’s most memorable story covered a recently-opened homeless shelter, an experience that allowed her to relate to the county’s progress in reducing homelessness. She is also working on a long-term project investigating the gender imbalance in the website’s readership.

High levels of online engagement have impressed on Berko the weight of a journalist’s responsibility in reporting news. Her piece on Trump drew more than 130 reader comments.

“The most fulfilling aspect of my internship is knowing that my boss trusts me enough to tell stories and give them the attention they deserve every time I’m assigned a new beat,” Berko said. “It’s daunting because I want to ensure I don’t miss anything in the story, but incredibly rewarding when I feel that I have taught my readers something. It’s truly an honor to know that each person reading my article is trusting my ethics, reporting capabilities and accuracy.”

Amelia Cheatham – The Orlando Sentinel

The headlines on Amelia Cheatham’s stories at the Orlando Sentinel illustrate the wide range of crime and mayhem she gets to cover every day: Polk County inmate dies while in custody. Clerk thwarts robbery at Orlando 7-Eleven. Man wanted in 2013 murder case arrested in Dominican Republic.

Following leads on law enforcement logs and social media, Cheatham’s role is to keep readers informed of news as it’s happening. Most of her stories cover local crime and law enforcement, though she has also written on the rehabilitation of turtles and Florida’s “Donut Boy.” Though she expected the newsroom to be fast-paced, the sheer velocity of breaking news still surprised her.

Covering breaking news makes her appreciate all the work that it takes to write a story.

“Previously, when I scrolled through headlines in my Facebook feed, I never truly considered the minutes, hours and days of effort someone, somewhere devoted to creating that content,” Cheatham said. “I certainly appreciated journalism as a challenging endeavor; however, I didn’t begin to understand just how tough it can be until I spent a few weeks in a metaphorical reporter’s hat.”

Cheatham, a global health major at Duke, has also been able to find opportunities at the Sentinel to fuse her interests in health and journalism. With the help of her direct editor, Janet Reddick, and the newspaper’s health reporter, Naseem Miller, she has interviewed survivors, a politician, and researchers for a piece on preeclampsia.

Ultimately, the interpersonal aspects of interviewing and reporting on subjects are what she relishes the most.

“I’ve spoken with people in the midst of several emotionally difficult situations, from the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting to the traumatic death of a close friend or relative,” Cheatham said. “It’s gratifying to know that through my journalism, I’m helping to ensure that event or individual is not as easily erased from the public consciousness. I strive to recognize the humanity behind the names on a sheriff’s office press release.”

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Rebecca Iannucci

[PHOTOS] The Reporters’ Lab takes on Global Fact 4 in Madrid

Six team members from the Lab traveled to Spain for the annual summit of fact-checkers around the world

By Rebecca Iannucci – July 14, 2017 | Print this article

The Reporters’ Lab team recently spent five days in Spain, exploring the future of fact-checking — but we left plenty of time for churros, chocolate and an unusual fish concoction called Gulas.

Six team members from the Lab — co-directors Bill Adair and Mark Stencel, project manager Rebecca Iannucci, student researcher Riley Griffin, Share the Facts project manager Erica Ryan and developer Chris Guess — traveled to Madrid July 4-9 for Global Fact 4, the annual gathering of the world’s fact-checkers.

But even though the trip was primarily for business, there were ample opportunities to explore and enjoy the city. Among the highlights: a trip to El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, home to Picasso’s Guernica; a taste of Basque tapas at the restaurant Txapela; and plenty of people-watching at El Mercado de San Miguel. (Oh, and did we mention the churros?)

Below, scroll through assorted scenes from Madrid, then click here for more coverage of Global Fact 4.

(L-R) Mark Stencel, Rebecca Iannucci and Riley Griffin enjoy churros at Chocolatería San Ginés.
(L-R) Bill Adair, Rebecca Iannucci and Erica Ryan get some work done at Campus Madrid.
Rebecca Iannucci presents the Reporters’ Lab’s FactPopUp tool to the Global Fact 4 audience. Photo credit: Mario Garcia.
Rebecca Iannucci presents the Reporters’ Lab’s FactPopUp tool to the Global Fact 4 audience. Photo credit: Mario Garcia.
Global Fact 4 boasted 188 attendees from 53 countries. Photo credit: Mario Garcia.
Rebecca Iannucci poses in front of Campus Madrid’s signage.
Bill Adair leads a standing ovation for Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network and organizer of Global Fact 4. Photo credit: Mario Garcia.
Rebecca Iannucci tries Gulas, a shredded fish dish, at El Mercado de San Miguel.
(L-R) Rising Duke senior Alex Newhouse, Riley Griffin, Erica Ryan and Rebecca Iannucci, after lunch in La Plaza Mayor.
(L-R) Riley Griffin, Bill Adair, Erica Ryan and Rebecca Iannucci, after lunch in La Plaza Mayor.
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Global Fact 4

Global Fact 4: Notes From Day 3

A compilation of highlights from the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, which took place July 5-7 in Madrid

By Riley Griffin & Rebecca Iannucci – July 8, 2017 | Print this article

The Global Fact 4 summit came to a close Friday, after much reflection on the last year of fact-checking and discussion about future advancements in the industry.

Ana Pastor, director and anchor of Spain’s El Objetivo, and Guillermo Solovey of the Instituto de Cálculo held a Q&A on the rejection of facts by polarized populations. Later, Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, argued that individual claims should no longer be the “atomic unit” of fact-checks. Following a presentation by representatives from Facebook and Google, and a panel on fake news, the day ended in a standing ovation for Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the organizer of the conference.

Below is our final roundup of noteworthy moments from the summit, from social media interactions to memorable slides.

Tweet of the day

Áine Kerr, manager of journalism partnerships at Facebook, and Philippe Colombet, head of strategic partnerships for news and publishers at Google, held a joint panel on how their respective platforms could benefit fact-checkers. During the Q&A, Mantzarlis asked the two technology experts if they would be willing to share data and metrics concerning the impact of their news initiatives with journalists. After Kerr and Colombet struggled to provide a definitive answer, some fact-checkers tweeted their concern about the lack of transparency between tech companies and the media. Phoebe Arnold, head of communications and impact at Full Fact, documented the moment in the tweet above. 

 Slide of the day

Aaron Sharockman, executive director of PolitiFact, led a presentation called “Funding for fact-checking: beyond foundations,” to teach resource-deficient organizations how to generate revenue, capitalize on crowdfunding and find investors. To emphasize his message, Sharockman put up a slide with a personal quote: “You cannot begin to charge for something until you know what it actually costs.” Sharockman’s parting advice to fact-checkers was to know their own value in the current political landscape and to take advantage of the increased awareness of the industry. 

Quote of the day

“Everyone says they’re interested in truth, but I’m not sure that they are.” — Ana Pastor, director of El Objetivo

Trust was a central topic of Friday’s Global Fact discussions, particularly as it applies to the waning trust between fact-checkers and their audience. During Pastor and Solovey’s conversation, they both addressed a major frustration for fact-checkers: Readers often reject facts that don’t align with their beliefs, choosing instead to live in a “news bubble” that only accepts one side of an argument.

“Realizing that something is a lie doesn’t change their perspectives,” Solovey said of readers who are deeply entrenched in their stances. Pastor also noted that “people don’t want their ideas questioned, they want them reaffirmed,” which contributes significantly to an audience’s lack of trust in fact-checkers and the collective media. 

For more coverage from Global Fact 4, check out the following articles:

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Google Home

Fact-checking moves into the Google Home

At Global Fact 4 in Madrid, we unveiled our new Share the Facts app for the Google device and six new languages for our widget.

By Erica Ryan – July 8, 2017 | Print this article

A new Reporters’ Lab app allows users to “talk to Share the Facts.”

The new app for the Google Home taps the growing database of articles from the world’s fact-checkers to provide answers to voice queries. It is part of our Share the Facts project, which is expanding the reach of fact-checking around the world.

The Google Home app features fact-checks of claims by politicians and other public figures from Share the Facts partner organizations, including PolitiFact, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and FactCheck.org.

The Share the Facts app, which is similar to one unveiled last fall for the Amazon Echo, uses natural speech recognition to analyze and answer questions from our database of roughly 9,000 fact-checks.

To activate it on your Google Home, say: “OK, Google, talk to Share the Facts.” Then ask questions such as:

  • “Did Donald Trump oppose the war in Iraq?”
  • “Was Obamacare a failure?”
  • “Is it true that Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax?”

Try to use the most important keywords in your question, following the examples above.

We welcome feedback on the Share the Facts app for the Google Home by emailing project manager Erica Ryan.

The app was unveiled at Global Fact 4 in Madrid, Spain, the annual meeting of the International Fact-Checking Network.

We also announced that the Share the Facts widget, which has been available in English, French, Polish and Italian, now has versions in German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Indonesian, Hindi and Japanese. The project is a partnership with the Google News Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet.  

The widget allows fact-checkers to get a “Fact Check” tag for their content in Google News and search results. Google uses the “Fact Check” label, launched in 2016, to find and distribute accurate content and to increase the visibility of quality journalism.

The widget also offers other benefits for fact-checkers. Each widget is a concise summary of a fact-check that can be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Participating fact-checkers can also be featured in new products like the Share the Facts apps for the Google Home and the Amazon Echo.

Three partners are testing the widget in the newly available languages: Aos Fatos of Brazil, Wiener Zeitung of Austria and El Confidencial of Spain. We hope to expand the widget soon to publishers in Indonesia, Japan and India.

Organizations interested in using the Share the Facts widget can find more information on the Share the Facts website or by emailing team@sharethefacts.org.

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Global Fact 4

Global Fact 4: Notes from Day 2

A compilation of highlights from the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, taking place July 5-7 in Madrid

By Riley Griffin – July 7, 2017 | Print this article

The second day of Global Fact 4 kicked off with welcome remarks from Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network, Ana Pastor, anchorwoman for El Objetivo, and Bill Adair, director of the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Panels, Q&As, and breakout workshops took a deep dive into subjects ranging from automatic fact-checking to collaborative partnerships between media outlets. Highlights included Michelle Lee, who presented on the Washington Post’s latest project for fact-checking Donald Trump, and Wikimedia Foundation executive director Katherine Maher, who delivered a keynote speech about “the approximation of the truth.”

Each day, we’ll be collecting noteworthy moments from the summit, from social media interactions to memorable slides. Below are the highlights from Day 2 of the conference.

Tweet of the day

Farhad Souzanchi, the editor of Iran’s FactNameh, documented the crowd of 188 fact-checkers from 53 countries attending the plenary conference. Among the group were members from seven new fact-checking initiatives, based in such countries as South Korea and Norway.

Slide of the day

Full Fact, a nonprofit fact-checker in the United Kingdom, has partnered with Google to create innovative technologies for journalists. During a panel on automated fact-checking tools, Full Fact’s digital products manager, Mevan Babakar, explained the complex process of developing new fact-checking tools   like Trends and Robocheck — that identify viral disinformation and display pop-up fact-checks in real time. Referring to the slide, which illustrated the back end of an automated fact-checking tool, Babakar said, “This isn’t really sexy, but the products are.” Full Fact’s tools are still at the prototype stage, according to Babakar, but she anticipates they will one day be scalable across the industry.

Quote of the day

“At Wikipedia, we believe that an approximation of truth is all we can ever strive for.” — Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation

At the Wikimedia Foundation — the nonprofit organization that hosts Wikipedia — truth is an imperfect entity. The truth is malleable, biased, incomplete and ever-changing with the whims of history, executive director Katherine Maher said in her keynote speech. Although Maher does not consider herself a fact-checker, she believes in the pursuit of facts. During her speech, and in a Q&A with Poynter, Maher described how fact-checkers can take cues from Wikipedia when it comes to gaining readers’ trust and being as transparent as possible.

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Global Fact 4

Global Fact 4: Notes from Day 1

A compilation of highlights from the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, taking place July 5-7 in Madrid

By Riley Griffin & Rebecca Iannucci – July 6, 2017 | Print this article

Global Fact 4, the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, is taking place July 5-7 in Madrid. Each day, we’ll be collecting noteworthy moments from the summit, from social media interactions to memorable slides. Below are the highlights from Day 1 of the conference.

Tweet of the day

The International Fact-Checking Network informally launched Global Fact 4 with a series of workshops about best practices for fact-checking, innovative tools and platforms for fact-checkers and the IFCN Code of Principles. Conference attendees can use #GlobalFact4 to contribute to the international dialogue surrounding fact-checking, fake news and freedom of the press.

Slide of the day

PolitiFact editor Angie Holan and Chequeado director Laura Zommer lectured 55 emerging fact-checkers on fundamental dos and don’ts of the practice during the Fact-Checking 101 workshop. For a claim to be checkable, Holan said it has to be feasible, factual and relevant, with enough evidence to deliver a verdict. Holan also said any claim based on an opinion does not meet those criteria — and journalists should avoid fact-checking them.

But it is not always that simple. Discerning factual claims from opinion is often difficult, Holan said. To illustrate her point, she brought up a statement from the National Republican Congressional Committee that sparked debate in the PolitiFact newsroom: “ISIS is infiltrating America and using Syrians to do it.” Was the claim checkable or not? Was it based on empirical evidence or opinion? Ultimately, PolitiFact determined there was sufficient empirical evidence to check the claim and come to a verdict: false.

Quote of the day

“Thanks to Donald Trump, ordinary Japanese people understand exactly what fake news is.” — John Middleton, co-founder of FactCheck Initiative Japan

The founders of FactCheck Initiative Japan spoke with the Reporters’ Lab about the need for fact-checking in a country where government influence and fake news are infecting public debate and news coverage. Middleton, a law professor at Hitotsubashi University, noted that misinformation had long existed in the Japanese media landscape, but the public did not take it seriously until Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

FactCheck Initiative Japan is one of at least seven new fact-checking operations attending Global Fact for the first time.

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At Global Fact 4: churros, courage and the need to expose propagandists

The next challenge for the Global Fact community: calling out governments and political actors that pretend to be fact-checkers.

By Bill Adair – July 6, 2017 | Print this article

My opening remarks at Global Fact 4, the fourth annual meeting of the world’s fact-checkers, organized by the International Fact-Checking Network and the Reporters’ Lab, held July 5-7, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.

It’s wonderful to be here in Madrid. I’ve been enjoying the city the last two days, which has made me think of a giant warehouse store we have in the United States called Costco.

Costco where you go when you want to buy 10 pounds of American Cheese or a 6-pound tub of potato salad. Costco also makes a delicious fried pastry called a “churro.” And because everything in Costco is big, the churros are about three feet long.

When I got to Madrid I was really glad to see that you have churros here, too! It’s wonderful to see that Costco is spreading its great cuisine around the world!

I’m pleased to be here with my colleagues from the Duke Reporters’ Lab — Mark Stencel, Rebecca Iannucci and Riley Griffin. We also have our Share the Facts team here – Chris Guess and Erica Ryan. We’ll be sampling the churros throughout the week!

It’s been an amazing year for fact-checking. In the U.K., Full Fact and Channel 4 mobilized for Brexit and last month’s parliamentary elections. In France, the First Draft coalition showed the power of collaborations during the elections there. In the United States, the new president and his administration drove record traffic to sites such as FactCheck.org and PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker — and that has continued since the election, a time when sites typically have lower traffic. The impeachments and political scandals in Brazil and South Korea also meant big audiences for fact-checkers in those countries. And we expect the upcoming elections in Germany, Norway and elsewhere will generate many opportunities for fact-checkers in those countries as well, just as we’ve seen in Turkey and Iran. The popular demand for fact-checking has never been stronger.

Fact-checking is now so well known that it is part of pop culture. Comedians cite our work to give their jokes credibility. On Saturday Night Live last fall, Australian actress Margot Robbie “fact-checked” her opening monologue when she was the guest host.

Some news organizations not only have their own dedicated fact-checking teams, they’re also incorporating fact-checks in their news stories, calling out falsehoods at the moment they are uttered. This is a marvelous development because it helps to debunk falsehoods before they can take root.

We’ve also seen tremendous progress in automation to spread fact-checking to new audiences. There are promising projects underway at Full Fact in Britain and at the University of Texas in Arlington and in our own lab at Duke, among many others. We’ll be talking a lot about these projects this week.

Perhaps the most important development in the past year is one that we started at last year’s Global Fact conference in Buenos Aires – the Code of Principles. We came up with some excellent principles that set standards for transparency and non-partisan work. As Alexios noted, Facebook is using the code to determine which organizations qualify to debunk fake news. I hope your site will abide by the code and become a signatory.

At Duke, Mark just finished our annual summer count of fact-checking. Mark and Alexios like to tease me that I can’t stop repeating this mantra: “Fact-checking keeps growing.”

But it’s become my mantra because it’s true: When we held our first Global Fact meeting in 2014 in London, our Reporters’ Lab database listed 48 fact-checking sites around the world. Our latest count shows 126 active projects in 49 countries.

I’m thrilled to see fact-checking sprouting in countries such as South Korea and Germany and Brazil. And I continue to be amazed at the courage of our colleagues who check claims in Turkey and Iran, which are not very welcoming to our unique kind of journalism.

As our movement grows, we face new challenges. Now that our work is so well-known and an established form of journalism, governments and political actors are calling themselves fact-checkers, using our approach to produce propaganda. We need to speak out against this and make sure people know that government propagandists are not fact-checkers.

We also need to work harder to reach audiences that have been reluctant to accept our work. At Duke we published a study that showed a stark partisan divide in the United States. We found liberal publications loved fact-checking and often cited it; conservative sites criticized it and often belittled it. We need to focus on this problem and find new ways to reach reluctant audiences.

I’m confident we can accomplish these things. Individually and together we’ve overcome great hurdles in the past few years. I look forward to a productive meeting and a great year. And I’m confident:

Fact-checking will keep growing.

 

 

 

 

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Repoeters' Lab map

Fact-checking booms as numbers grow by 20 percent

With fact-checkers gathering for annual Global Fact summit, a Reporters’ Lab tally finds 17 new projects around the world. (But still not in Antarctica.)

By Mark Stencel – June 30, 2017 | Print this article

The 200-person attendee list for next week’s Global Fact 4 summit in Madrid is up 80 from last year’s meeting in Buenos Aires, and more than twice what it was in London two years ago. And with good reason: The number of fact-checkers has been growing too, driven by concerns about a global epidemic of misinformation, viral hoaxes and official lying.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab database of international fact-checking initiatives now counts 126 active projects in 49 countries. That’s up 20 percent from the 105 projects we tallied a year ago. And that year-over-year increase continues the growth we found in for our most recent annual fact-checking census in February.

Active Fact-Checkers by Continent
Africa: 4
Asia: 14
Australia: 2
Europe: 46
North America: 47
South America: 13

NOTE: All the numbers presented throughout this article are as of June 30, 2017. An updated map, global tally and country-by-country lists are available on the Reporters’ Lab fact-checking page.

It’s great to see so many new sites: 17 of the 126 fact-checkers opened for business in the past 12 months. One of the newest, the Ferret Fact Service in Edinburgh, launched just nine weeks ago. And there was the welcome return of Australia’s ABC. Government funding cuts ended that project last year, but it returned from an 11-month hiatus on June 5 as a jointly branded partnership of the public broadcasting company and RMIT University in Melbourne. And the same Toronto-based team of technology activists that built a site four years ago to track Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign promises launched a new fact-checking service in April: Fact-Nameh (“The Book of Facts”), the PolitiFact of Iran.

Of the fact-checkers that launched in the past year, seven were in Europe, four were in North America, three were in Asia and three were in South America. And all appeared in countries with roiling political situations plagued by false claims and misinformation that made global headlines — from presidential impeachments (Brazil and South Korea) to an attempted coup (Turkey) to intense immigration fights (everywhere!) to nationwide campaigns and voting (South Korea and Turkey again, plus Austria, Iran, Italy, Kosovo, the U.K and, um, the U.S. — with Germany’s turn coming in September).

If ever there was a time for fact-checking, this was it.

The United States is home to a third (42) of the fact-checkers we track. We also found that 16 other countries have at least two fact-checking projects, and seven of those have three or more, including Brazil (8), the United Kingdom (6), France (5), South Korea (5), Ukraine (4) and Canada (3).

We saw an encouraging sign about quality: One-fifth of the fact-checkers in the database (25 of the 126) are already verified signatories of International Fact-Checking Network’s newly established Code of Principles. And that number will grow because independent evaluators are reviewing additional applications. The code was written by an IFCN committee last summer to encourage best practices such as fairness, a commitment to correcting errors, and transparency on sources, methodology and funding. Facebook is using IFCN’s Code to identify trustworthy non-partisan fact-checking partners to help flag fake news and other misinformation.

Most of the sites, about six out of 10, are affiliated with established news media organizations. The rest are a mix of independent journalism and research projects, many of which are affiliated with universities, think tanks and non-governmental groups instead of existing media companies.

The ties to media companies are especially common in the United States, where 83 percent of fact-checkers (35 of 42) are operated by or closely affiliated with bigger news organizations. In the rest of the world, a bit over half (44 of 84, or 52 percent) have direct news media ties. But that mix may be shifting. In our 2016 census, less than half of the fact-checkers outside the U.S. were part of a larger media house (24 of 55, or 44 percent).

If you’re keeping track of all these numbers, you better write them down in pencil and be ready for updates. We still have a pending list of other fact-checkers we need to evaluate, including some whose staff we look forward to meeting at the Madrid summit. (Here’s an explanation of how the Reporters’ Lab identifies the fact-checkers we include in our database. In addition to journalism that fairly examines the accuracy of statements by public figures and institutions, we also look for authoritative, nonpartisan reporting on the progress of political promises and the credibility of widely shared online sources of information and misinformation.)

The healthy growth we’ve measured since last year’s Global Fact conference comes even after we had to move more than a dozen other fact-checkers to inactive status. In fact, at this point we have a list of more than five dozen inactive fact-checking initiatives.

That kind of fluctuation and turnover is consistent with the natural attrition we’ve tracked over the past several years — with many fact-checkers springing up for campaigns and then going dark. Some election-oriented fact-checkers will reliably return for the next campaign. That requires us to continuously determine which projects are hibernating comfortably and which have met their ultimate fact-checking fate. But since we can now base those choices on several years of observation, we now leave these seasonal fact-checkers marked as “active” in our database, noting their campaign focus in our descriptions. And we are continuously finding established fact-checkers who previously escaped our notice, which also adds to the growing tally. If you’re one of them, please let us know.

The Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke University’s Sanford School for Public Policy. We started the fact-checking database three years ago to track the reach and impact of this journalism. It also supports the Lab’s efforts to develop tools and services that help fact-checkers report and disseminate their work to a bigger audience. That includes Share the Facts, a project that helps fact-checkers distribute their reporting on other websites and platforms, including devices such as the Amazon Echo. Google also has used the Lab’s fact-checking database in its recent efforts to elevate fact-checks in search results and on the redesigned Google News page.

This update is based on research compiled over several months in part by Reporters’ Lab student researcher Hank Tucker. Alexios Mantzarlis of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network also contributed, as did Reporters’ Lab director Bill Adair, Knight Professor for the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University (and founder of PolitiFact). Thanks also to Cristina Tardáguila of Agência Lupa in Brazil, Itziar Bernaola of El Objetivo in Spain, Boyoung Lim of Newstapa in South Korea, and many other fact-checkers around the world who help us keep up with this fast-growing form of journalism.

Please send updates and additions to Reporters’ Lab co-director Mark Stencel (mark.stencel@duke.edu).

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Heroes or hacks: The partisan divide over fact-checking

We analyzed nearly 800 references to fact-checking and found a stark divide. Liberal writers like fact-checking; conservatives don't.

By Bill Adair & Rebecca Iannucci – June 7, 2017 | Print this article

Conservative writers aren’t fond of fact-checking. They belittle it and complain that it’s biased. They say it’s “left-leaning” and use sarcastic quotes (“fact-checking”) to suggest it’s not legitimate. One writer likens PolitiFact to a Bangkok prostitute.

Liberal writers admire fact-checking. They cite it favorably and use positive adjectives such as “independent”  and “nonpartisan.” They refer to fact-checkers as “watchdogs” and “heroes.”

To examine partisan differences over fact-checking, we analyzed some of the most widely read conservative and liberal sites. Our students in the Duke Reporters’ Lab identified 792 statements that referred to fact-checkers or their work. We found a stark partisan divide in the tone, the type of references and even the adjectives the writers used.

Our report, Heroes or hacks: The partisan divide over fact-checking, reveals a serious problem for the growing number of fact-checkers, journalists who research and rate the accuracy of political statements. They emphasize their neutrality and nonpartisan approach, but they face relentless criticism from the political right that says they are biased and incompetent.

Our analysis found:

  • Liberal websites were far more likely to cite fact-checks to make their points than conservative sites were.
  • Conservative sites were much more likely to criticize fact-checks and to allege partisan bias.
  • When our student researchers categorized the tone of mentions, we found liberal sites made most of the positive references, while the negative references came primarily from the right.
  • Conservative sites made the most critical comments about fact-checking, occasionally using quotation marks (“fact-checking”) to imply it wasn’t legitimate.

(Read the full report.)

We found the most revealing differences in the words the writers used to describe fact-checkers and their work.

Liberals emphasize they are nonpartisan and call them “respected,” “reputable” and “independent.” Fact-checkers are “watchdogs” or “heroes.” PolitiFact is described as “Pulitzer Prize-winning.”

Conservatives use words such as “left-leaning,” “biased,” “hackiest” and “serial-lying.” They question the legitimacy of fact-checkers by calling them “self-proclaimed.”

The most wicked criticism came from Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, who called PolitiFact “the hackiest and most biased of the fact-checking outfits, which bends over like a Bangkok hooker to defend Democrats.”

Our findings indicate that fact-checkers have some work to do. They need to strengthen their outreach to conservative journalists and, particularly, to conservative audiences. The fact-checkers need to understand the reasons for the partisan divide and find ways to broaden the acceptance of their work.

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2017 fact-checking map

International fact-checking gains ground, Duke census finds

Number of projects up 19% in a year; U.S. count holds steady after tumultuous election season

By Mark Stencel – February 28, 2017 | Print this article

Falsehoods and “fake news” are keeping journalists and researchers busy in 47 countries, where 114 dedicated fact-checking teams are now calling out public figures for inaccuracies.

The number of active fact-checking projects increased more than two and half times since the Duke Reporters’ Lab began its annual census three years ago. The current count is up 19 percent from 2016, when the number of active fact-checkers was 96.

Nineteen of the fact-checkers started in 2016. That includes 10 in the United States, seven of which focused on state and local politics. The number of startups increases to 23 if we include four additional U.S. fact-checkers that launched in 2016 to cover the U.S. elections but have since shut down. Those four are now among the 55 inactive fact-checking projects that are also tracked by the Reporters’ Lab.

Also among those inactive projects is the ABC News Fact Check in Australia, which closed down in June after government budget cuts. But the ABC Fact Check is expected to return as soon as next month as part of a new partnership between the public broadcaster and RMIT University’s School of Media and Communication — a phoenix-like cycle that we’ve seen before among the world’s fact-checkers.

The Lab regularly updates the database of fact-checkers, which peaked last year at 121 before the end of the raucous U.S. election season (see the current MAP AND LIST). By the time American voters went to the polls, the number of U.S. fact-checkers had temporarily surged to 53 — up from 41 during the presidential primary campaign a year ago — with most focused on politics at the state and local level.

But with the shuttering of eight of PolitiFact’s state affiliates since the election and other updates to our list, the U.S. year-over-year count grew by just two to 43 — or about 38 percent percent of the global total. [UPDATE, March 25: PolitiFact Georgia resumed operations after brief hiatus in March 2017. PolitiFact’s reporting about Georgia politics is now syndicated to state news outlets, including The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The newspaper previously produced its own fact checks, using PolitiFact’s platform and methodology from 2010 to 2016. The numbers of fact-checkers referred to throughout this article are still based on our February count.]

The post-election dip in the U.S. was not surprising. Media fact-checkers that come to life in campaign years often go offline or close down completely after the votes are tallied — a trend PolitiFact founder Bill Adair lamented in an Election Day commentary for the New York Times.

“[P]oliticians don’t stop lying on Election Day,” wrote Adair, who now teaches journalism at Duke and oversees the university’s Reporters’ Lab.

Meanwhile, the fact-checking movement has continued to grow internationally.

Including the United States, 11 countries have more than one fact checker:
United States: 43
France: 6
United Kingdom: 6
Spain: 4
Ukraine: 4
South Korea: 3
Canada: 3
Brazil: 3
Mexico: 2
Argentina: 2
Colombia: 2

Growth was especially strong in Europe, where our count increased 44 percent — from 27 in 2016 to 39 now. While some of that increase came from adding established fact-checkers we previously hadn’t identified, seven of the European fact-checkers were among the 2016 startups.

Among the operations that opened for business in 2016 were fact-checkers in Ireland Kosovo, Lithuania, Spain and the United Kingdom, plus two in Ukraine (some of these launched early enough to in the year to be counted in last February’s report). New fact-checkers in Columbia and Kenya also launched in 2016. And with upcoming elections in France, Germany and elsewhere, we expect global growth in fact-checking will continue in 2017.

FACT CHECKERS BY CONTINENT
Africa: 5
Asia: 9
Australia: 1
Europe: 39
North America: 50
South America: 10

In the United States, fact-checkers are often part of an established news organization. But elsewhere in the world, they are less likely to have a media affiliation.

While more than 80 percent of the U.S. fact-checkers (36 of 43) are part of a media company, fewer than half in the rest of the world (33 of 71) have those kinds of direct ties. The others are mainly affiliated with universities and other non-governmental organizations that focus on issues such as civic engagement, government transparency and public accountability. Still, those independent fact-checkers frequently establish business or distribution relationships with news organizations to help pay for their work and expand their audiences.

The Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke University’s Sanford School for Public Policy. The Lab’s staff and student researchers identify and evaluate fact-checkers that specifically focus on the accuracy of statements by public figures and institutions in ways that are fair, nonpartisan and transparent. The Lab also gets guidance from the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which established a Code of Principles in 2016.

Student researcher Hank Tucker contributed to this report, as did Reporters’ Lab director Bill Adair, Knight Professor for the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University and founder of PolitiFact. Please send updates and additions to Reporters’ Lab co-director Mark Stencel (mark.stencel@duke.edu).

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