Craig Silverman

Craig Silverman (craig@craigsilverman.ca) is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification. The blog moved to The Poynter Institute in December 2011, and he joined as Adjunct Faculty. He also serves as Director for Content for Spundge, a content curation and creation platform used by newsrooms and other organizations. Craig has been a columnist for the Toronto Star, Columbia Journalism Review, The Globe And Mail and BusinessJournalism.org. He’s the former managing editor of PBS MediaShift, and was part of the team that launched OpenFile.ca, a Canadian online news start-up. His journalism and books have been recognized by the Mirror Awards, National Press Club, Canadian National Magazine Awards, and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.


Scottish paper issues correction after it claims prom couple were ‘the envy of their classmates’

Here’s a wonderful backhanded correction from this week’s edition of the Cumbernauld News, of Scotland:

Vine is a broadcaster with the BBC, and the Twitter user he credits for finding the correction told me that it was published in this week’s edition of the paper. I emailed the paper to see if I can get more information about why Mrs. Masterson raised objections, and why the paper decided to issue the correction. Read more

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Study: Political journalists opt for stenography over fact checking during presidential debates

During the 2012 U.S. presidential debates, political journalists on Twitter primarily repeated candidate claims without providing fact checks or other context, according to new research published in The International Journal of Press/Politics.

Authors Mark Coddington, Logan Molyneux and Regina G. Lawrence analyzed tweets from 430 political journalists during the debates to see how much they engaged in the checking of candidate claims. The resulting paper is “Fact Checking the Campaign: How Political Reporters Use Twitter to Set the Record Straight (or Not).”

They also examined whether the political journalist’s tweets fell more into the construct of traditional objectivity or what they call “scientific objectivity,” which eschews he said/she said in favor of empirical statements and analysis, i.e fact checking.

They found that 60 percent of the journalist tweets “reflected traditional practices of ‘professional’ objectivity: stenography—simply passing along a claim made by a politician—and ‘he said, she said’ repetition of a politician’s claims and his opponent’s counterclaim.”

Journalists largely repeated the claims and statement of candidates, rather that check or challenge them. Read more

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Amnesty International launches video verification tool, website

Amnesty International is in the verification game and that is good news for journalism.

When journalists monitor and search social networks, they’re looking to discover and verify newsworthy content. Amnesty utilizes the same networks and content — but their goal is to gather and substantiate evidence of human rights abuses.

“Verification and corroboration was always a key component of human rights research,” said Christoph Koettl, the emergency response manager in Amnesty USA’s Crisis Prevention and Response Unit. “We always had to carefully review and corroborate materials, no matter if it’s testimony, written documents or satellite imagery.”

Now they’re “confronted with a torrent of potential new evidence” thanks to social networks and cell phones. As with their counterparts in newsrooms, human rights workers and humanitarian organizations must develop and maintain skills to verify the mass of user-generated content.

That’s why, it’s no surprise, Amnesty International today launched a new website and tool to help human rights researchers and others with the process of video verification. Read more

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L.A. Times corrects report of author’s porn habits, man’s “endowment”

The Los Angeles Times offered a book review correction that’s jam packed with porn and penis references:

“Big Little Man”: A review in the June 29 Arts & Books section of the book “Big Little Man” said that author Alex Tizon is in his 60s. He is 54. Also, the review described Tizon as an avid consumer of porn, but the book says the viewing was for research. It also described Tizon’s friend’s embarrassment about the size of his endowment, whereas the book states that “he liked being average.” 

Hat tip to Romenesko for spotting this. Read more

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How CNBC got burned by a nonexistent ‘cyberattack’

Two weeks ago, CNBC aired a story and published a detailed article about what it called an “audacious,” “brazen,” sophisticated” and “unprecedented” cyberattack against a big hedge fund.

A company called BAE Systems Applied Intelligence said it had identified the attack, but declined to name the hedge fund involved. 

CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers wrote the lengthy look at the incident and also appeared on air in a more than two-minute segment.

Maybe you can guess what happened next: Yesterday, Javers wrote a follow-up article to note that BAE subsequently admitted that the attack on the hedge fund never really happened. It was part of a “scenario” the company had laid out. From the company statement given to Javers:

“From the extensive amount of cyber incidents we deal with, we occasionally produce anonymized illustrative scenarios to help inform industry and the media. We now understand that we recently provided CNBC with an example referencing a hedge fund and incorrectly presented it as an actual BAE Systems Applied Intelligence client case study rather than an illustrative scenario.

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Truth Goggles launches as an annotation tool for journalists

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When Dan Schultz first described Truth Goggles close to three years go, he deemed it a “magic button” that could tell you “what is true and what is false on the web site you are viewing.”

That concept – which Schultz refers to as the “fact-check the Internet approach” – attracted a decent amount of press and enthusiasm at the time. Schultz shipped some related code as a result of him developing the project while at the MIT Media Lab.

Today, nearly three years later, he’s released the first Truth Goggles product — and it’s a departure from that original vision.

The Truth Goggles launching today is a tool to enable anyone to annotate an existing piece of online content to raise and answer questions about what’s been reported/written. It can also be used to offer a layer of personalized commentary.

“It’s still a credibility layer and it’s still very much about challenging the user and prompting the user to think in the moment,” Schultz said. Read more

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Ottawa Citizen apologizes to David Bowie for ‘Space Oddity’ accusation

In May, the Ottawa Citizen published an op-ed from a university professor that began with an accusatory opening line:  “David Bowie stole a piece of Canadian culture on Wednesday.”

It was dead wrong.

The piece claimed Bowie was personally responsible for having astronaut Chris Hadfield’s version of “Space Oddity” removed from YouTube. Professor Blayne Haggart wrote that “the world was only allowed to see the video because Bowie had granted Hadfield a one-year license to show it. On May 14, the license expired and Hadfield removed it from public view.”

Today, the paper apologized for the error. Turns out Bowie does not own the copyright for that song, and he in fact made efforts to try and get the owner to give the necessary permissions.

The apology reads in part:

One year later, the Citizen erroneously published that Mr. Bowie had granted the original licence but failed to renew the licence after one year.

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LinkedIn acquires major fact checking patents

Lucas Myslinski was tired of having to fact check the questionable emails his father often forwarded to him.

“My dad would send these emails where they say something like, ‘Oh the government is stockpiling billions of dollars of ammunition’ and other things like that, where if all you would do is take a little time and look on Snopes you would find it’s not true,” Myslinski said.

That very problem has inspired projects such as LazyTruth, Truth Goggles, and Trooclick, all of which I wrote about last week, as well as the Washington Post’s TruthTeller. There’s a broad consensus that in a world of abundant, and often incorrect, information it would be valuable to have an app that “automatically monitors, processes, fact checks information and indicates a status of the information.”

Myslinski sketched out his ideas and then took the step of patenting them. The above quote is in fact taken from one of his many patent filings and summarizes the core of the systems he has imaged and diagrammed over the last few years. Read more

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BuzzFeed faceplants in hockey story, then makes an amusing correction

When the Los Angels Kings won the Stanley Cup at home, lots of significant others, officials, and other folks came down to the ice to celebrate. As reported by BuzzFeed and Uproxx, this resulted in a remarkable faceplant by one woman who unwisely wore high heels on the ice:

That slip up caused another: BuzzFeed’s post mistakenly said the Kings are based on Sacramento, rather than L.A. (Sacramento’s basketball team is called the Kings.) That resulted in this amusing correction:

This post originally identified the Kings as being from Sacramento, not Los Angeles. The author clearly cares much more about faceplants than sports. We regret the error.

It’s funny and it conforms to the recently implement BuzzFeed correction policy, which I previously wrote about. Among other things, the style guide advised that an error in a lighthearted post can match the tone:

The correction’s tone should echo the tone of the item, in keeping with its gravity.

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A new truth layer for the web

Over the years this idea has attracted entrepreneurs and technologists, and so far no one has been able to figure out a workable, widely-adopted product.

The problem to solve is obvious: With so much content being published online, it’s difficult for most people to determine the quality and credibility of a given webpage or other piece of content. How can you know if the article you’re reading has incorrect facts, is incomplete, or was produced by an organization with serious ethical issues? Isn’t there some way to compare all the articles and content on a given topic and surface the best, most accurate and complete version?

A team of 16 people in Paris are the latest to try and solve this problem. Their product is Trooclick, and it will launch an initial version this month. (Today, at the Global Editors Network Summit in BarcelonaI’m moderating a panel about fact-checking that includes Trooclick CEO Stanislas Motte.)

Trooclick is a browser plugin (Chrome and Firefox) that alerts you if an article you’re reading includes what they call “glitches.” A glitch could be an incorrect fact, information that conflicts with other media reports about the same topic, or something about the publisher’s ethics, or the ethics of the article itself, that a reader should be aware of. Read more

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