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Fact-Checking Critical for Today’s Newsrooms

In a session during ARIJ’s 15 forum, entitled “Fact-checkers: Alone we are a drop and together we are an ocean”, the panelists focused on the exponential growth of the fact-checking industry and community everywhere, despite the limited resources and financing available. 

To counter this reality, the three panelists presented a road map towards sustaining this sector of journalism that is gaining momentum in a media sphere that is increasingly polarized and plagued by fake news, man made and machine propaganda and misinformation. 

Boom’s managing editor Jency Meenathel  drew on the experience of his network in India to educate and train fact-checkers making sure that programs of fellowships for fact-checking journalists go all the way to see those attend remunerated placements in various newsrooms. 

Peter Jones, the founder member of Africa Check, highlighted the growth witnessed in the fact-checking communities in Africa that has increased in a short time from a small number of specialists to include more than 31 such fact-checking organizations in Africa today. He argued that misinformation is not just a global problem, as it usually starts and impacts people at the local level, hence his call to empower local and regional fact-checking communities calling on journalists working in this sector to communicate with one another, and encouraged them to adopt relevant attribution to substantiate the work and give it more credit, in addition to increasing the level of collaboration and cross publishing that would increase the reach of authenticated content for the benefit of all. 

To do that, Nils Hanson drew on the experience of his Swedish newsroom with his 20 years track record of delivering fact-checked news and investigations, calling on all fact-checkers to adopt what his institution calls “the 3 checkpoints” to ring fence any story prior to its publication, leaving absolutely no room for error that could lead to the audiences doubting your content. 

He proposed that fact-checking network must create a quality control team in the newsroom whose job is to authenticate and test the premises and details of the stories, during a start meeting, then a midpoint progress meeting, and the final “line by line meeting” using always one fact-checker as the devil’s advocate working to discredit where possible the weaker by-lines or thesis proposed. 

All panelists in this session agreed that fact-checkers should present an alternative content that adheres to stringent verification processes and stands the test of accuracy and transparency in a world where media has become polarized and drifted from its original mission of serving the audience and society as a whole. All the above constitute tenets that any average news operation would dream of having, but the reality of budgetary, financial and funding constraints often constitute the key challenge facing news organizations, where many of their quality controls, research and fact checking departments are sacrificed first, to keep the media organization and its limited number of employees afloat.

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