This article was originally written for and published at International Journalism Festival web magazine.
In the panel discussion “Collaborative fact-checking to monitor elections” the focus was set on the ways journalists think, and the ways journalism is affected when reporters have to thoroughly fact-check sources in order to monitor the elections. Is there a special method to fact-check the news? Could something ensure the full transparency of journalistic works?
Phoebe Arnold, Full Fact‘s Head of Communication and Impact; Julien Pain, Editor-in-Chief of France 24‘s Observers; Sam Dubberley, manager of the Digital Verification Corps at Amnesty International; Scott Klein, Deputy Managing Editor of ProPublica; and First Draft News‘ Claire Wardle tackled these important questions, suggesting that collboration and innovation could prove to be the best answers.
When Klein and his team had to monitor the US elections they came up with the initiative Electionland: they tried to understand why the American electorate seemed not be too keen to vote, researching the motivations behind their decision. They analysed how people behaved on social media in different areas of the United States, then set up a system where input data from different sources and study them.
They established a whole newsroom where to check all the information coming in before feeding them to the national desk. In the end, they succeeded in handling thousands of local stories from all the regions they analysed, a move that however proved to be the appropriate one to cover the 2016 elections. Klein admitted to having faced, alongside the rest of the staff, a problem with misinformation, but nonetheless the formula helped them to cover the news and to publish stories from all over the US.
Having realised that fake news had taken the lead in the run up to Brexit, Arnold began to check the news in a different way starting on the day after the referendum. With her Full Fact team, she collaborated with academics, media experts and people interested in European issues in order to interact with readers from coming from different areas and backgrounds to discover real and verified news. They checked the facts throught live reporting and by contacting editors from different organisations such as Wikipedia, thus expanding their sources network and establishing a more transparent an accurate information system.
According to the panel, the upcoming French elections are a rather concerning topic. Pien, after having worked for many years in the area of media, concluded that if people do not trust the journalists even a good investigation will not be read. He recounted how he had had to come up with something that could catch people’s attention, regaining their trust throught their empowerment and urging them to take action and evaluate on their own if news are false or true.
He decided to go out in the Parisian streets and chat with the people about the local news, using only Facebook live as support. He admitted to not having achieved much insofar, but also that he was able to reach and engage a younger audience, also attracting people who weren’t actively interested in the news before. He encouraged them to start a dialogue, proving that his new approach idea had had an impact on them.
Dubberley’s aim was very similar: he wanted to create a new, successful method to facilitate fact-checking the news to use in the upcoming French elections. His main concern was the reaction of the different media companies, but by establishing Cross Check, he succeeded in convincing people to start working together and to also let the public take an active part in news gathering. They hired students from different European countries to report the news and to write stories. The key point of this initiative, as he stated, was that no story or article can be published without proper verification from another media partner.
In conclusion the panel agreed that fact-checking, while demanding a lot of time and efforts from the journalists, is an optimal way of garnering trust from the public. In particular showing the people all the effort and hard work that goes on behind making accurate news, and working together to ensure the diffusion of trustworthy news pieces was revealed to be a successful approach.