Bill Adair


fact-checking

Lessons from London: fact-checkers have passion, but need more checks

Poynter’s inaugural Global Fact-Checking Summit attracted a diverse group of journalists to a London classroom this week.

Two Italians explained their creative ideas for earning money from their work. An energetic editor from Argentina talked about how she uses crowdsourcing to help her reporters. And two young journalists from Ukraine showed how they’ve used digital tools to find manipulated photographs in the Russian media.

Attendees at the Poynter’s Global Fact-Checking Summit in London. (Photo by Shannon Beckham)

The journalists shared something big in common: a passion for fact-checking.

As international conferences go, the Global Fact-Checking Summit was a small one — about 40 fact-checkers, a half-dozen academics who study this growing new form of journalism, plus a handful of representatives from the foundations that paid for the conference. But what it lacked it size, it made up in spirit.

They came from across the globe — India, South Africa, Serbia, Poland, Italy, France, the United States and Chile. Russell Skelton, the head of the ABC Fact Check in Australia, endured a 22-hour flight from Sydney and won the conference prize for the longest trip — a kitschy Barack Obama snow globe.

The two-day conference at the London School of Economics showed fact-checkers are a unique breed.… Read more

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Poynter to hold Global Fact-Checking Summit in London

With fact-checking growing around the world, the Poynter Institute will convene the first Global Fact-Checking Summit, to be held in June in London.

The conference, at the London School of Economics on June 9-10, will bring together about 40 fact-checkers from places such as South Africa, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, India, the United States, South America and Eastern Europe.

Fact-checking is expanding rapidly around the globe, according to a new analysis from the Duke University Reporters’ Lab. The Duke study found 59 sites that have been active in the last few years, including 44 currently in operation.

About half of the sites are affiliated with newspapers, television networks or other legacy media organizations. The other half are run by startup companies or not-for-profit groups. Twenty-seven have started in the past two years.

The Global Fact-Checking Summit is sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, the Duke Reporters’ Lab, the British fact-checking site Full Fact, and craigconnects, the Web-based initiative to support philanthropy and public service run by Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.

Topics will include the growth and challenges of fact-checking, the best techniques for researching claims, the pros and cons of rating systems, the use of crowdsourcing and the need to find sustainable business models.… Read more

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Creating new forms of journalism that put readers in charge

It’s been 20 years since the Internet began to disrupt journalism. It has turned our business upside down, but it’s also given us a new canvas to invent different ways of presenting information. It’s time to start reimagining the news story.

Last week, four of us gathered in a windowless conference room in New York to explore what we can do to nudge things along.

The participants were the creators of three projects that rely on new forms:

  • Laura and Chris Amico, the founders of Homicide Watch, the highly acclaimed reporting venture that tracks homicide victims and suspects in Washington, Chicago and Trenton, N.J.


All three projects use a structured approach to present content in different ways. The animated diagrams of Connected China show you the family and government relationships that determine who has clout in that country; the lists and maps of Homicide Watch show who has been killed and where; the PolitiFact report cards reveal which politicians have earned the most Pants on Fires.… Read more

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Smart Spending Winning the eBook War

Unfulfilled promise of e-books offers lessons for news organizations

I spent my vacation reading from pixels instead of paper.

I read e-book versions of “Bruce,” a Springsteen biography by Peter Ames Carlin, and Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “Inferno.” Both had great potential for extra audio and video that could have created a much richer experience. But the e-books offered no more than the ink-on-paper versions.

My disappointing experience offers a lesson for news organizations that are considering selling e-books because its shows how legacy media is still thinking like … legacy media. Book publishers still have an old-school mentality —  like many newspaper editors.

E-books offer great opportunities for magazine and newspaper editors because the digital versions can include video, audio and other content that will enrich a story. Newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post are publishing e-books because they can bring in extra revenue and new audiences. Consumers are accustomed to paying for books, and there are established stores (Amazon and Apple’s iBooks) that will market and sell them. But to do e-books right, editors and book publishers should take advantage of their multimedia features.

I read the iBook versions of Bruce and Inferno on my iPad, but the experience would have been pretty much the same if I’d used the Kindle versions.… Read more

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Bezos has what The Washington Post needs: imagination and patience

The front page of today’s Washington Post print edition was dominated by coverage of the paper’s sale to Jeff Bezos. But a small story squeezed onto the bottom of the page, about the world’s first lab-grown hamburger, also gave some insight into what’s ahead for the legendary paper — and perhaps the rest of the news business.

The story recounted the taste test of the first lab-burger, which was described as “surprisingly crunchy.” The story noted who bankrolled the newfangled beef: Google’s Sergey Brin.

The Post — like the hamburger — will now be owned by a rich guy with a spirit of experimentation. Using just a tiny fraction of his tremendous wealth to buy the paper, Bezos made clear that he wants to tinker with the Post and explore the future of journalism.

“We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment,” he wrote in a letter to Post employees. “Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about — government local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports — and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.”

It has been difficult for newspaper editors to do much inventing in the past few years because they have been too busy cutting.… Read more

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Let’s blow up the news story and build new forms of journalism

American journalism is suffering from a lack of imagination.

We’re at a transformational moment in how we publish and broadcast our work — a time of great promise when we can reinvent how we tell stories.

And yet, we are still doing things the same way we’ve done them for decades. Take a look at any newspaper’s website and you’ll see the same old story form — just in pixels. It’s the same for television stations. Their websites post the same video packages that were on the 6 o’clock news.

We are stuck in the ’90s. I remember one of the first conferences on computer assisted reporting in the mid-’90s when they showed us this thing called “the Web” and demonstrated a website for the “Late Show with David Letterman.” It was very cool and very promising. It showed how the Web gave us a new canvas to create new forms of journalism.

And yet here we are, almost 20 years later, and the content we’re putting on the Web has hardly changed.

What’s taking so long?

It’s partly an infrastructure problem. At newspapers, we’re hamstrung by the editing and content management systems that are used to publish our work. They were built for putting ink on paper.… Read more

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