Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

The Week in Fact-Checking: ‘S-Town,’ vaccine for hoaxes, and the usual love-hate Facebook roundup

Quote of the week

“The result wasn’t that falsehoods were accepted as facts but rather the creation of a ‘crust of lies’ so thick and pervasive, that people no longer believed anything at all. People became cynical, obedient or some combination of the two — and the wounds were so deep, I could still see scars in Prague nearly 20 years after Communism. I’ve been thinking a lot about this dynamic as political events unfold in the United States.” Todd Milbourn writing for Editor & Publisher about his work in Prague.

Fact-checking the “S-Town” podcast

“S-Town,” the latest podcast from “Serial” and “This American Life,” is the complicated story of an unusual man’s life in Woodstock, Alabama. In its first month, the podcast was downloaded more than 40 million times. And If you’ve listened to all seven chapters, it might have seemed as if there were at least that many facts to check. The mind-boggling job of fact-checker went to Benjamin Phelan, who talked this week with the American Press Institute about his work.

Our fake-news elections
Covering elections these days means covering misinformation. And for journalists reporting on Kenya’s general election, the U.S. media’s experiences in 2016 are providing a template.

Hollande’s final report card
Check out Lui président’s roundup of the campaign promises kept and broken by the former French president Francois Hollande.

Your weekly love-hate Facebook roundup
If the future belongs to Facebook, it’s not going to be pretty. … The fake-news-fighting tools provided by Facebook don’t seem to be working, at least anecdotally. … Florida police aren’t happy about a fake news story posted on a fake Facebook account that frightened parents and students.

A disagreement over fact-checking disagreement
A study reported in Vocativ says that fact-checkers’ findings are often in disagreement. But those conclusions are probably overstated. For one, the selected sample of overlapping fact checks is very small. More important still, this conclusion is predicated on “Mostly False” and “Half True” being “total opposites.”

Vaccines for hoaxes
Most fact-checking efforts concentrate on post hoc corrections, but what if you could inoculate readers against upcoming misinformation? This study says prebunking shows promise.

Misinformation is a public service (?)
In this New Orleans fact check, an official says a false statement by her organization was not misleading — it was simply “a metaphor to help the public understand.”

Tips for better fact-checking
Something for the kids: “The Parent and Educator Guide to Media Literacy and Fake News.” … Quartz collected fact-checking tips from some of the best fact-checkers around. … A fellow with PesaCheck reports back on what he learned in a year as a fact-checker.

Help us help you
“We’re a small and busy newsroom, but we look into every piece of correspondence we receive. “ A small daily newspaper offers to check every piece of potentially fake news sent to them by readers.

Is this the Tweetdeck for fake news?
For fact-checkers, keeping up with online misinformation can be hard. Unlike false claims by public figures, fake news can pop up pretty much anywhere. Trendolizer, a web app, could reduce the head start that fakers enjoy over debunkers.

Fact-checking avocado toast

There goes the mortgage payment? (Flickr Creative Commons)

When a wealthy businessman ridiculed (some) millennials’ apparent addiction to expensive avocado toast, a couple of New York Times millennials fact-checked his assertions.

Fake news, the TV show
Seeing an “irresistible opportunity to poke fun at an already ridiculous world,” a UK television station launches “The Fake News Show” this week. You can watch the trailer here.

12 quick fact-checking links 
(1) A South African editor blasts “the media” for perpetuating a fake story on “the blue whale suicide game.”  (2) Two experts explain in The Conversation why urban legends just won’t go away. (3) This is what happened when a fake news site stole an L.A. Times reporter’s story.  (4) Why do we love propaganda and hate experts? Read this Quartz article. (5) Donald Trump’s reading list includes fake news. Sad. (6) Automated fact-checking project FactMata has an update on what’s coming. (7) Irish journalist Dan MacGuill joined Snopes; his former employer will keep on fact-checking. (8) Swedish fact-checkers Viralgranskaren say they won’t let their parent company’s controversial new owner influence their work. (9) A fascinating discussion about AI, fact-checking and the British election on the Wired UpVote podcast (10) An “amateur investigator” and restaurant owner in Washington, D.C., has decided to fact-check the Trump-Russian controversy himself. (11) A new report from Data & Society examines how media organizations were ripe for manipulation in 2016. (12) Verificationistas and fact-checkers unite for the British election.

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.