Tag Archives: journalism

Fact checking in the time of Web

In the time of Web, news come much faster than years ago. Can few journalists under harsh deadlines of hours really check factual assertions in order to determine they are true? I guess the question boils down to two different ones: (1) is a timely fact-checking possible? (i.e. what is really happening, for instance, in the Niger Delta for oil?) and (2) if this is possible, can few journalists from their offices check if what is mentioned in a certain “report” is really happened?

The issue (fact-checking) is not new of course but can be dated back to the first newspaper. What is new is the fact we now live in a global world and the Web let news to spread faster and faster.

I made a short investigation to see if there is any user-generated, bottom-up, web2.0sque attempt to fact check in the time of Web. Of course there is. Following a list of what I found:

1. FactCheck.org and FactCheckEd.org, two attempts by Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. FactCheck.org is a non-partisan, nonprofit website that describes itself as a “‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”
2. WikiFactCheck.org, a proposal by Andrew Lih, an associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and author of “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a bunch of nobodies created the world’s greatest encyclopedia”. In a blog post he explains why he believes a wiki is perfect for the task of decentralized fact-checking.
3. Truth-o-meter by PolitiFact.com. PolitiFact.com was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for “its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.”
4. The fact checker project by the Washington Post. This is a more traditional attempt but made available in the wild on a public website. During 15 months, Michael Dobbs have checked some 200 claims and statements relating to the presidential campaign, and received 18,000 comments, many of them vehemently disputing his verdicts. He used Pinocchios as markers of un-truthiness.
5. Fact and Reference Check project by Wikipedia. Wikipedia itself has a WikiProject about this important issue. The purpose of this project is to verify facts in Wikipedia by multiple independent sources. Basically there are templates that anyone can add to articles so that these articles end up in categories such as Category:Wikipedia articles needing factual verification, Category:Articles lacking sources, Category:Articles needing additional references Category:Articles lacking reliable references or Category:Articles with unsourced statements.

UPDATE 2010/11/18: Thanks to a comment by sergio maistrello about factcheck.it, I came to know the following ones, thanks Sergio!

Do you know of more attempts? You are very welcome to add them in the comments. Thanks!

Journalism in the Age of Data

Very interesting video report by Geoff McGhee.

Below I embed the first chapter but there are 8 of them! In the first one, Fernanda Viègas and Martin Wattenberg speak about what they mean by visualization (and the great projects they have been doing, up to now when they joined the the Google’s “Big Picture” data visualization group!) and then there is Ben Fry who I love because of processing.org. WOW!

Journalism in the Age of Data from Geoff McGhee on Vimeo.

Description: Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?

Key points:
• The explosion of data has brought a complementary need for tools to analyze it (Ch. 1, 7)
• Researchers in visualization are helping by building tools for non•experts (Ch. 1, 7)
• Journalists are finding ways to adapt to the challenge of telling stories with data (Ch. 2, 3)
• With experience in charting data, infographics designers are well suited to bring data vis to journalism, but they debate how effective it is at explaining concepts (Ch. 4)
• In a wired world, data is increasingly becoming a medium of personal expression (Ch. 5)
• Data will increasingly arrive in real time, challenging our ability to absorb, analyze and display it (Ch. 5)
• Technologies for creating online visualizations are in transition, but there are new tools coming out that will make the process easier (Ch. 7)
• Data analysis is at least as important as visually displaying it; there are tools that help with this process (Ch. 6)

Geoff McGhee is an online journalist specializing in multimedia and information graphics. Over the past decade he has worked at The New York Times and ABCNews.com, and in France at Le Monde Interactif. In 2009-2010, he spent a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University studying data visualization. In July 2010, McGhee began a new job developing visualizations and interactive content for the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford.

Journalism in the Age of Data by Geoff McGhee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.