Getting It Right: Editors and the Fight for Fact….. Reinforcing Fact-Checking Principles in the Age of Disinformation By Azu Ishiekwene, Mass Communication Scholar, Editor-in-Chief, Leadership Newspaper.

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  • Posted by: Imoh Robert

New Media Skills

Don’t be reactive – take another look.

Confirm the source – who? What? When? Where?  Cross-referencing – who else is talking about this?  Establishing Consistency – do all the details match?

Contextualising Stories – do details support the narrative?

Deepening Connections

  • Fact-Checking initiatives, within and outside newsrooms, have been instrumental in combating disinformation especially in periods of  considerable social upheaval. To develop efficient capabilities in  Nigeria, editors must not only build dedicated fact-checking teams,  those teams must be able to work with a cross-section of partners in  civil society, academia and technology. We have examples from  countries whose challenges are somewhat comparable to ours.
  • Reverso, a collaborative project between over a 100 media  organizations, was created to produce and distribute fact-checks  related to the 2019 Argentinian election.
  • In the same year, a similar collaborative project,, took  place in Uruguay. The initiative brought together over 127 partners.
  • Fact-checkers have also come together to combat  disinformation surrounding Ukraine.

Why It Matters

  • In 2014, the International Fact-Checking Network hosted the first Global  Fact-Checking Summit, which drew about 30 organizations dedicated to  fact-checking. 5 years later in 2019, at the sixth instalment of the event, the  number of attendees had risen to over 250, 60 of which, it’s important to  note, were African-run organizations. While the term ‘Fake News’ has been  popularised by US politics culture, the threat posed by mis- and  disinformation is recognised as a global one and has seen committed, if  undervalued, efforts across international media. This has serious  implications for editors, who have retained to a large degree their  traditional role as arbitrators of literary taste. Recent events such as the  COVID 19 pandemic reveal just how critical the role is. The United Nations  and the WHO have used the term ‘infodemic’ to raise awareness about how  quickly fear-mongering, rumours and disinformation tactics are filling  knowledge gaps. Disinformation is a matter of public safety.

What This Means

  • Editorial oversight is more vital than it’s ever been. A media  culture influenced by hasty news cycles, reliance on paid  advertising and the insistence on digestible weakens our  vigilance.
  • Newsrooms must adapt to ever-evolving realities in how  information is created and disseminated. The pervasiveness  of user-generated content and the platforms which enable it  intensify the scale and speed at which information spreads.  There is often difficulty in distinguishing low from high  quality information.
  • While ‘legacy’ media institutions could once rely on  their reputation as longstanding sources of verifiable  information, the parameters of credibility, expertise  and trustworthiness are being constantly redrawn.
  • A thorough understanding of the Dark Web is  essential in these times. The avenues available to bad  faith actors for collaboration, resource sharing and  strategising are many. They exist in ‘hidden’ parts of  the Internet and oftentimes on sites you and I use,  Facebook being an oft-cited example. Editors must  learn to detect their tactics without amplifying them.

Revisiting The International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of  Principles

A Commitment To Non-Partisanship And Fairness

  • Review claims from multiple angles.
  • Account for bias at every stage.
  • Look for vested interests. Who benefits?

A Commitment to Standards And Transparency of Sources

  • Barring exceptional cases, sources should be  disclosed.
  • Consider source’s proximity to the issue. On what  grounds is the source best placed to offer relevant  information?
  • Diversity of voices

A Commitment To Transparency of Funding and Organization

  • Audiences should know how the organization,  particular piece or project is funded and how this  might influence the nature or/and direction of  claims made.

A Commitment to Standards and Transparency of Methodology

  • Clarity about guidelines, processes and ethics that  shape editorial work.
  • What tools and personnel are in use?
  • What priorities are accepted on what basis does  this change depending on the story?

A Commitment to an Open and Honest Corrections Policy

  • Be upfront about errors when they are discovered.
  • Make proper acknowledgments if errors are  pointed out by third party.
  • Use corrections as opportunity to close loopholes.

Final Note

Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all  other crises. When bad information becomes as  prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good  information, it creates a chain reaction of harm. ‘

Aspen Institute’s Commission for Information Disorder, 2021

Author: Imoh Robert

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