Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

The Week in Fact-Checking: Fake news is old news

Two stories this week remind us that the history can be a great teacher and that “modern” burdens actually were borne by generations before us. Adrian Chen writes for the New Yorker about early radio and its role in “information anarchy.” And Merrill Fabry of Time magazine explains how fact-checkers were able to do their jobs well before the Internet was invented. Amazing.

Quote of the week
“I’m very rarely required to fact-check anything, because who cares about the truth when the headline is so good? Online traffic, if it wasn’t already obvious, is the only thing measured in this job. The fact we share stories without paying much attention explains why I get away with regurgitating stories while adding nothing.” — A viral news writer explains his craft in Wired magazine

European Commission moves on fake news
The recently appointed European Commissioner in charge of Digital Economy and Society will be launching a public consultation on fake news and setting up an expert group, per Euractiv. “It’s premature to talk about legislation,” the Commissioner said.

Nordics share fact-checking format
Norwegian state broadcaster NRK imported the Danish TV’s fact-checking format “Detektor” ahead of the upcoming elections. It features politicians rating their own claims on a colorful dial.

What he said
A journalist explains accountability journalism to people who don’t like journalism. Or accountability. Here are Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke’s thoughts.

‘Lying for Jesus’ is not OK
Fact-checking begins at church, says Christian Today writer Martin Saunders. Using an unchecked story from the Internet to supplement your Sunday sermon is a practice that preachers should “commit to eradicate.”

All those Harvey fakes
Hurricane Harvey, like other breaking news stories before it, has spawned a flood of social media fakes. Here’s a great round-up by Abby Ohlheiser at The Washington Post. Yup, the fakes include that fake shark photo that has been faked before. The user who tweeted it says he doesn’t care it’s fake. (GIF by @aliszewski in this 2016 piece)

Snapchat wants you to know it’s different
Snap vice president of content Nick Bell told the BBC that Snapchat employs journalists to fact-check Snaps they’re re-sharing with their audience. This adds editorial foresight that other social networks have resisted, but “Mr Bell did not refer to Facebook by name,” the BBC article helpfully adds.

The how and the why
Full Fact does a nice job explaining not only that some reported numbers about student migrants are wrong, but how they were misunderstood in the first place.

The freedom to be wrong
What is the fight against fake news doing to our fundamental right to be as contrarian, idiotic and oafish as we want to be? Here’s The Economist’s take.

Some fact-checking fun
The San Diego Free Press passes along this “operetta” about fake news, Gilbert & Sullivan style.

12 quick fact-checking links
(1) Scroll.in investigates whether the Indian government really advocates privacy as a fundamental human right. (2) A West Virginia newspaper debunks the campus “brothel law.”  (3) No, Angela Merkel did not recycle an East German slogan. (4) Old but relevant again: Why do people share rumors during breaking news? (5) The Financial Times has decreed the end of the post-truth era, apparently. (6) An Italian minister doubts The Guardian’s take on prosecco and tweets “fake news.” (7) PolitiFact is starting its Knight-funded Facts Matter outreach campaign with an event in Alabama. (8) People in 1865 were just as gullible as they are now.  (9) The dictionary is checking President Trump’s tweets, and they’re busy. (10) Entertainment Weekly pays tribute to fact-checker Jenny Boeth. (11) This Vox video explains why our brains resist facts. (12) Where did the word “fake” come from? (And can someone take it back?)

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

Featured topics

Go deeper on…

Dive deep on everything we produce about these key topics.

Strategy Studies

The best practices for innovation within news organizations

This Strategy Study presents examples and insights about journalism innovation, offering actionable advice and methods to move your journalism and business forward.