U.S. journalists agree that fact-checking is important. But they can’t agree on when to use the L-word.

November 29, 2018

What American journalists think of fact-checking

As a community, fact-checkers are kind of siloed off into their own little section of the journalism universe. They help drive the news cycle, but their unique format sets them apart them from the rest of the press.

So what do traditional journalists think of their fact-obsessed peers? A new study from Paul Mena at the University of Florida tries to answer that question.

In a web-based survey of 61 American journalists and fact-checkers, Mena asked a series of questions about the purpose of fact-checking, how transparent to be and which political party is more prone to falsehoods. He found that there was broad consensus on some of the core tenets of fact-checking.

“It is noteworthy that a large majority of all respondents dissented with the idea that it is OK for a fact-checker to strongly express his or her political leanings,” Mena told Daniel in a message. “As it is noted in the paper, this result challenges some perspectives that advocate for an ‘adversarial journalism.’”

RELATED ARTICLE: When is a false claim a lie? Here's what fact-checkers think.

At the same time, Mena found that respondents disagreed on when fact checks should incorporate the word “lie” for false claims. While 68 percent of regular fact-checkers disagreed that they should say someone lied, only 20 percent of traditional journalists thought similarly.

Additionally, there was an interesting trend in responses about which political party is most likely to make false statements.

“The perception that Republicans are more likely to produce false claims was significantly higher than the perception that Democrats are more likely to produce false statements, although the difference was moderate,” the study reads. “In any case, there were considerable percentages of respondents who answered that they neither agree nor disagree with the statements.”

What do you think of Mena’s findings and the disparity between full-time fact-checkers and traditional journalists? Let us know by emailing factchecknet@poynter.org or tweeting @factchecknet.

Word of the Year
(Screenshot from Dictionary.com)

This is new

  • Dictionary.com named “misinformation” its word of the year.
  • First Draft launched a collaborative verification project in Nigeria ahead of the country’s February elections.
  • This company is working on a tool that could make it easier to fact-check in real time.

Show and tell

  • Climate Feedback got Fox News and two British newspapers to correct a story that claimed a mini-Ice Age was imminent.
  • The Agence France-Presse’s fact-checking project has expanded to more than a dozen countries as it enters its second year. In honor of the occasion, the outlet published a roundup of its fact-checkers’ favorite stories. It was a good week for Factuel overall, as it got a debunk about strikers retweeted far more than the original hoax.
  • Lead Stories and Nieuwscheckers teamed up to unearth a network of fake news sites that target Trump supporters using fake Facebook accounts, groups and Twitter trolling.
Tear gas
A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, runs away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the United States and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 25, 2018. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

The Bad Place

  • A viral photo of a mother fleeing tear gas at the U.S.-Mexico border was co-opted for a series of conspiracy theories about the migrant caravan. And no, The Red Cross is not ignoring California wildfire victims to help migrants instead.
  • Taiwan officials claim that China is using social media to peddle misinformation and propaganda ahead of this weekend’s elections.
  • In the span of two months, Indonesian authorities have arrested more than a dozen civilians who spread misinformation on Facebook.

Research you can use

  • Adding a photograph to a false message — even if it is generic — could systematically shape people’s beliefs over time.
  • In this newsletter, we talk a lot about how misinformation affects audiences in the West. But this new survey found that Kenyans and Nigerians see significantly more fakery than Americans do.
  • Bill Adair at the Duke Reporters’ Lab wrote about what he learned from a focus group of people were exposed to a pop-up fact-checking tool on TV.

A closer look

  • Daniel spoke with the Tow Center’s Jonathan Albright about the U.S. midterms, how Facebook groups are hotbeds of misinformation and what fact-checkers can do about it.
  • Deepfakes: Don’t fret, prepare.
  • Rolling Stone profiled some of the people behind the pages that Facebook has taken down in recent months — and not all of them are misinformation-pushers.

Help us improve this newsletter

We’re revamping The Week in Fact-Checking for 2019 — including the name. Tell us what you want it to be like by filling out this survey.

6 quick fact-checking links

  1. Global Fact 6 registrations are open. Don’t miss out!
  2. This post is a good example of how easy it is to pass off misinformation as real on Facebook.
  3. The latest country to deal with election-related misinformation: Fiji.
  4. China's crime-fighting facial recognition technology doesn't always work perfectly.
  5. ICYMI in a previous version of this newsletter, we are all awash in pseudoscience.
  6. CNN fact-checked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in real time — an idea that fact-checkers have floated to the networks for years.

Until next week,

Daniel and Alexios