“Global Fact”

‘It’s great to be here in Norway!’

For the kickoff of Global Fact 7, a celebration of the IFCN's community.

By Bill Adair – June 22, 2020 | Print this article

My opening remarks for Global Fact 7, delivered from Oslo, Norway*, on June 22, 2020.

I’m going to do something a little different this year. I’m going to fact-check my own opening remarks using this antique PolitiFact Pants on Fire button. You know Pants on Fire – it’s our rating for the most ridiculous falsehoods.

First , I want to say that it’s great to be here in Norway! (Pants on Fire!)

I love Norway because I’ve always loved the great plastic furniture I buy from your famous furniture store IKEA! (Pants on Fire!)

I am accompanied today by this Norwegian gnome, which I know is very much a symbol of your great country! (Pants on Fire!)

Okay….I’m actually here in Durham, North Carolina,, but thanks to the magic of pixels and…Baybars!…I’m with you!

First, some news…

Baybars Orsek and Bill Adair during the broadcast for Global Fact 7.

As you probably know, every year before Global Fact, the Duke Reporters’ Lab conducts a census of fact-checking to count the world’s fact-checkers and we are out today with the number. This is the product of painstaking work by Mark Stencel, Joel Luther, Mimi Goldstein and Matthew Griffin. Our count this year is 290 fact-checking projects in 83 countries. That’s up from 188 in 60 countries a year ago.

I heard that and my first thought was that …. fact-checking keeps growing!

I should note that Mark Stencel has been working hard on this, staying up all night for the last few days to get it done. So I should reveal my secret: we pay him in coffee!

This morning, I’m going to talk briefly about community.

Back in 2014, when we started planning the first meeting of the world’s fact-checkers – in which we could all squeeze into a classroom at the London School of Economics –  Tom Glaisyer of the Democracy Fund gave me some important advice. Build a community, Tom said, not an association. The way to help the fact-checking movement was to be inviting and encourage journalists to start fact-checking. We’ve done that because this meeting, and our group, keeps getting larger. You could even say that … fact-checking keeps growing! 

And as a bonus, we also managed to establish the Code of Principles, which provides an important incentive for transparency and fairness in your fact-checking.

My favorite example of the IFCN’s spirit of community is the simplest: our email threads. They are often amazing! A fact-checker will write with a problem they are having and community members from all over the world will respond with suggestions and even help them do the work.

Did you see the amazing one a couple of months ago? Samba of Africa Check wrote about a video that claimed to show violence against Africans in China. He knew it was fake but was not sure where it was from, so he circulated the video by email. That led to a remarkable exchange.

A coordinator from Witness in the United States said the video had been posted on Reddit. suggesting it was from New York. Jacques Pezet of Liberation in France took the image and used Google Maps to find the New York intersection where it was filmed. And then Gordon Farrer, an Australian researcher, used Google Street View to identify the business – a dental office called Brace Yourself.

All of this showed up in Samba’s fact-check in Africa Check in Senegal.

Amazing! All the product of our community!

Another great example: the tremendous work by the IFCN bringing together the world’s fact-checkers to debunk falsehoods about COVID-19. The CoronaVirus Alliance has now collected more than 6,000 fact-checks. It, too, is a product of community, organized by Baybars and Cris Tardaguila.

And one more: MediaReview. You’re going to hear about it tomorrow. It grew out of some great work by the Washington Post and we’ve been working on it with Baybars and PolitiFact and FactCheck.org and fact-checkers from around the world that attended a meeting in January. It’s a new tagging system like ClaimReview that you’ll be able to use for videos and images. I’m more excited about MediaReview than anything I’ve done since PolitiFact because it could really have an impact in the battle against misinformation. 

Finally, I want to give some shoutouts to two marvelous people who embody this commitment to community. Peter Cunliffe-Jones has been an amazing builder who has done extraordinary things to bring fact-checking to Africa. And Laura Zommer has been tireless helping dozens of fact-checkers get started in Latin America.

Together, they show what’s wonderful about the IFCN: they believe in our important journalism and they have given their time and energy to help it grow.

Our community grows thanks to these wonderful leaders. I look forward to sharing a glass of wine with them — and you — next year in Oslo!

Bundle up!

*Actually, these remarks were delivered from my backyard in Durham, North Carolina.

 

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A broken promise about a tattoo and the need to fact-check everyone

"When we put together the IFCN code of principles three years ago, we said that fact-checkers 'do not concentrate their fact-checking on any one side.'"

By Bill Adair – June 19, 2019 | Print this article

My opening remarks from Global Fact 6, Cape Town, South Africa, on June 19, 2019.

It’s wonderful to be here and see so many familiar faces. It’s particularly cool to see our new team from the IFCN, not just Baybars and Cris, but also Daniela Flamini, one of our journalism students from Duke who graduated last month and is now working for the IFCN.

And it warms my heart to see my old friend Stephen Buckley here. When Stephen was dean of the faculty at Poynter, the two of us organized the first Global Fact meeting in London in 2014. That wasn’t easy. We had difficulty raising enough money. But Stephen was determined to make it happen, so he found some money from a few different accounts at Poynter.  Global Fact – and our important journalistic movement – would not have happened if it weren’t for him.

I’m impressed by this turnout – more than 250 attendees this year! I confess that when I saw the headline on Daniela’s story last week that said this was “the largest fact-checking event in history”… I wanted a fact-check. But I did one, and as PolitiFact would say, I rate that statement True!

I want to start today with a quick reminder of the importance of holding people accountable for what they say — in this case…me.

You will recall that last year at Global Fact, I promised that I would get a tattoo. And after some discussion, I decided it would be a tattoo of my beloved Truth-O-Meter. But a year went by and a funny thing happened: I decided I didn’t want a tattoo.

Now, as fact-checkers, we all know the importance of holding people accountable for what they say. We did that at PolitiFact with the Obameter and other campaign promise meters. PolitiFact has a special meter for a broken promise that usually features the politician with a big frown. We have fun choosing that photo, which has the person looking really miserable.

So I’ve created one to rate myself on the tattoo promise: The Bill-O-Meter. Promise broken!

My message today to open Global Fact is also about accountability. It’s about the need to make sure we fact-check all players in our political discourse.

Julianna Rennie and I recently wrote a piece for Poynter that looked at a new trend in the United States we call “embedded fact-checking.” It’s the growing practice of reporters including fact-checks in their news articles, when they drop in a paragraph or two that exposes a falsehood. For example, they may write that someone “falsely claimed that vaccines cause autism.”

We were glad to find a growing trend of embedded fact-checking in news and analysis articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the AP over the past four years. But we also found the subject was nearly always the same: Donald Trump. It was wonderful to see the trend, but it was lopsided.

Trump is a prime target for fact-checking because his volume of falsehoods is unprecedented in American history — and probably in world history, too. Journalists rightly should question everything he says. And you may have similar figures in your own countries who deserve similar scrutiny.

But we shouldn’t focus so much on Trump that we neglect other politicians and other parties. That’s true not just in the United States but everywhere. Indeed, when we put together the IFCN code of principles three years ago, we said that fact-checkers “do not concentrate their fact-checking on any one side.”

In the United States and around the world, we need to make sure that we check all the important players in the political discourse, whether it is for news stories or our fact-checking sites.

So my message for you today is a simple one: check everybody. Hold everyone accountable.

Even me.

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