The fact-checking army waging war on ‘fake news’

fake news
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By Bianca Fortis

If journalists must wage war against fake news and misinformation, Bill Adair is the general leading the charge.

Adair, who created PolitiFact in 2007 and is now the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University, is leading the Tech & Check Cooperative, a project working to develop new automated fact-checking efforts.

“The same things that make fact-checking possible at a large scale also make it possible to spread falsehoods at an even larger scale,” Adair said.

The Cooperative recently received US$1.2 million in grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project and the Craig Newmark Foundation.

The origins of fact-checking technology

When Adair started PolitiFact, the concentrated fact-checking effort at the Tampa Bay Times (then called the St. Petersburg Times) 10 years ago, he never anticipated the proliferation of fake news the way we know it today.

Misinformation spreads because it appeals to people’s “political sweet tooth,” Adair said. But the speed at which it spreads is largely due to advances in technology.

“What we’ve seen is that the same things that make fact-checking possible at a large scale also make it possible to spread falsehoods at an even larger scale,” Adair explained. “[Fake news] lends itself to bots in ways I don’t think any of us anticipated.”

PolitiFact, at first, wasn’t very popular. Adair recalls how when the site first launched, he would spend his weekends at home refreshing the PolitiFact homepage because the site’s traffic was so low. However, those early fact-checking efforts helped lay the groundwork to make new projects, including those by the Cooperative, possible.

PolitiFact structures its content in a way that allows and encourages user interaction, making it easier for search engines and apps to access the content. That framework is useful for the news apps and projects being built in 2017.

The projects

Adair said the overall goal of Tech & Check is to get fact-checking to more people.

There are three parts to the Cooperative: a suite of fact-checking apps; a series of tools that will automate the most repetitive aspects of fact-checking; and convening and collaboration with organizations around the world to learn from each other’s work.

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fact-checking
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By Judith  Langowski

Countering fake news and propaganda has been journalist Margo Gontar’s mission since she co-founded the Ukrainian fact-checking website StopFake in 2014. A project at the Kiev School of Journalism, a group of professors, students and volunteers established the site in response to the stream of fake news that exploded with the occupation of Crimea.

“The aim of fake news is not that people believe [it],” said journalist Margo Gontar. “Their aim is to confuse the audience. At some point, they just don’t trust the media at all.” Gontar theorizes that, when inundated by fake news, many people just distance themselves from political discourse altogether.

To fight this type of disinformation in Ukraine, independent and quality reporting is vital, a sometimes challenging prospect in a country ranked 102nd out of 180 in freedom of the press, according to Reporters Without Borders. Three-quarters of the Ukrainian media market belong to only four oligarchs.

Iryna Slavinska, a news anchor and editor for “Hromadske Radio,” works at one of the few media organizations that doesn’t belong to an oligarch. Financed through donations and grants, the independent station was founded in 2013, a few months before the Euromaidan protests, and quickly became the voice of the protesters.

“We have become much more professional since then,” said Slavinska. Nine hours of programming reach 100,000 listeners every day, with half of this audience listening to Hromadske’s informative content on state radio, where the station is given a two-hour live slot every evening.

“We diffuse our programming from Kiev, Mariupol and Dnipr. We have temporary licenses for the regions of Donezk and Luhansk,” Slavinska said. “Our air waves reach even the occupied territories [areas occupied by separatists] of these regions.” Independent reporting is especially difficult from there as Ukrainian journalists have limited to no access to these areas. For those broadcasts, Hromadske Radio relies on anonymous contacts in the regions or foreign journalists, who have easier access.

Even for independent media organizations, defining news in the context of war remains difficult. Should Ukrainian journalists prioritize freedom of speech over the security of their compatriots fighting in the war? This question was heavily debated at the media conference “Inside Our Blind Spots,” held October in Kiev and organized by the German NGO, the Network for Reporting in Eastern Europe (N-ost).

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mental health
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By Arun Karki

This post is the second piece in a two-part series about how journalists can protect both their physical safety and mental health, as well as the health and safety of their subjects, when covering dangerous or traumatic events. You can read part one, which addresses physical safety, here.

Twelve years ago, I didn’t know how impacted I was by Nepal’s civil war and Maoist insurgency. For a year, I had to pore over raw footage of the aftermath of the war in post-production. After six months, I started dreaming scenes from the war. The same thing happened in 2015 after spending months producing numerous stories on the April earthquake in Nepal.

Amantha Perera, the Asia-Pacific coordinator at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, explained this condition is known as ‘vicarious trauma.’ It’s caused by working with victims of trauma or, in the case of journalists, covering traumatic events. While many of the symptoms are similar to the more commonly known post-traumatic stress disorder, many people don’t know vicarious trauma, also known as compassion fatigue, exists. But traumatic incidents can have psychological impacts on subjects, audiences and journalists alike.

The following techniques may help journalists build own resiliency and learn how to report sensibly on trauma-related issues:

1. Remember the importance of telling the story

When Narendra Shrestha, a Nepalese photojournalist, was covering a 2017 flood in the southern plains of Nepal, he photographed an incident in which an eight-year-old boy died of pneumonia after his village flooded. The pictures disturbed Shrestha, and he balked at publishing them online. But he realized he may regret not telling this important story. After he posted the story online, the story went viral and was later carried by international media outlets. “Our job is isn’t always luxurious,” Shrestha said. “Sometimes, we have to face the ugliest situations.”

2. If a story becomes too overwhelming, take a break or give the story to someone else

Shrestha felt overwhelmed covering earthquake stories for a prolonged period of time. To get away from earthquake survivors’ heart-wrenching stories, he went overseas for a different assignment. “It was sort of a a way to let me forget the trauma,” he said.

3. Camera people and photographers should allow privacy during interviews

When reporters interview trauma victims, the camera persons and photographers should allow the reporter and interviewee to establish a rapport. Victims may not want to open up in the presence of photographers or videographers. To enable the reporter to build trust and not impact the conversation, videographers and photographers should put their cameras down and allow conversation to flow before getting consent and resuming filming and shooting pictures.

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staying safe
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By Arun Karki

A week after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that rocked central Nepal in 2015, Prakash Mahat, a cameraman with Nepal TV News, was covering both the aftereffects of the earthquake and the ongoing search for survivors in Kathmandu. Minutes after reaching the scene, a powerful aftershock almost toppled him into the wreckage.

“I didn’t care that I was covering a rescue operation by standing on debris piled up nearby,” said Mahat. “As the place started shaking, I was so scared. I lost my mind for a while and nearly lost my balance because I was shooting videos from a big, professional-sized camera. I forgot that tremors could come anytime.”

Dilip Thapa Magar, a Kathmandu-based freelance television reporter and activist who has reported hundreds of news stories on war, natural disasters and street protests for the past 16 years, said trauma reporting is different from standard reporting — and thus requires a specific set of skills.

Ten years ago, during the Maoist insurgency uprising and conflict in Nepal, a family member of a police officer recently killed by Maoist rebels smashed Magar’s camera.

“Due to being perceived as insensitive to the feelings of the victim’s family, I was attacked physically,” said Magar, who also serves as the vice chairman for the Federation of Nepalese Journalists. “So we must be highly sensitive and thoughtful. Published content should be ‘trauma sensitive’ and should not affect or harm anyone — victims and their families, audiences and journalists themselves, too.”

Based on their decades-long experience in journalism, Magar and Narendra Shrestha, a Nepalese photojournalist who also covered the earthquake, shared some tips for staying safe when reporting in dangerous and traumatic situations:

1. Know the geography well while reporting war from a conflict-hit zone

Journalists need to know transportation routes, both ground and air, if they’re reporting from a conflict area. And journalists should also have a place to hide if violence or chaos erupts, like during a protest.

“Never take sides,” Magar advised. “Neither police nor protestors, if you want to keep yourself safe.” The better a journalist knows an area, the more likely he will eventually return to his newsroom.

2. Sometimes, journalists have to be clever

“Prepare yourself for situations where you have to deal with gunmen, warlords or rebels,” said Magar. He recollected giving money and clothes to rebels who stopped his team in Nepal during the Maoist insurgency period. “I did not reveal my real identity and disguised myself as a tourist guide since the situation was life-threatening,” he said. “After three days in captivity, they allowed me to leave.”

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reviews
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It’s performance review time. Don’t cringe. Instead of a painful experience that you begrudgingly complete, take the time to give real feedback to your employees to empower them for the next year.

Maybe it’s not the fact that you have to give feedback that is painful, but trying to remember everything about your employees’ individual performance over the past year.

If that is the case, maybe you should try dropping the annual performance reviews in favor of something even better. Microfeedback. Some call it “building a performance culture” or “consistent feedback” or just regular feedback. No matter what you call it, it’s changing the way companies, large and small, look at performance.

So what does this trend mean for you during annual performance review time? Well, if you’re reading this blog, chances are, you’re procrastinating and trying to find some way, any way, out of these annual performance reviews.

“The best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Sure you’ve heard that quote. The wisdom inside it is obvious. No you might not be able to get out from under the deluge of annual performance reviews you have to do this year, but you can lay the groundwork for why it needs to change before the next time you have to slog through it.

1. Track Your Time.

If you know how much time is spent on annual performance reviews when conducted in one large swath, you can easily calculate how much time and money you will save by implementing microfeedback across the organization. Check out our handy ROI calculator to save you a step or two.

2. Survey Your Employees.

There’s never a better time to ask employees how valuable their reviews are than right after you conduct one. You can have someone from your department ask immediately after the review how beneficial your employees thought the experience was. Or send out a simple survey via email.

3. Do Productivity Checks Post-Review.

Does productivity shoot up? Does it go down? What do your retention numbers look like? This is all information that can be used to make a case for more consistent feedback.

4. During Your Reviews With Employees:

Ask them what they need from you to do their job better. Document this feedback to prove to your executive team that feedback is a great choice when offered more consistently to improve productivity, engagement and morale.

Everyone else is trying microfeedback. Why are you still slogging through annual reviews?

Based on an article by Michael Heller

For more tips on giving helpful evaluations, click here. Or, download our free “How to Work with People” e-book for more tips.

leader
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There are bosses and there are leaders. Just managing a group of people does not automatically make you a leader.

Having the right qualities to lead and inspire a team can be both satisfying and a challenge. On the other hand, ineffectual management can often cause poor performances and high turnover. One of the reasons many people quit their jobs is due to a bad boss.

This infographic compares both types of leadership methods. Anyone in a supervisory position can become a great leader instead of a bad boss. The trick is to acknowledge your strengths and work hard to become a leader.

leaderRead more by Alonzo Manch

cover image
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What do you need to consider when choosing a Facebook cover image for your publication? How can you make a memorable first impression with your choice of image?

Make sure your cover image conveys exactly the message you want it to with these tips:

  • The ideal cover image dimensions are: 820 pixels wide by 462 pixels tall
  • NEW – you can now use a video instead of a static cover photo. Take the opportunity to share a little bit more of your story. Cover videos should be 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall and 20 to 90 seconds long.
  • Remember that your cover image will look different on a computer versus a mobile device. As with all design, double check how your image appears on mobile.
  • A great way to make sure you are representing your magazine exactly how you want to is by creating the image in Photoshop. Here is a template: Facebook cover photo template (820 x 462px).
  • If you can’t or don’t want to design an image for your cover, use a photograph that represents your publication or a beautiful stock photo.
  • Using Canva is another option. You can customize their pre-made templates.

How should you select your cover photo? Hubspot has put together a great list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to cover photos. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Follow Facebook’s guidelines
  • Respect Facebook’s required dimensions (820px wide by 312 px tall for desktops)
  • Stay mainly visual and have a clear focal point
  • Keep in mind how your cover photo will look like on mobile
  • Integrate your cover photo design with the rest of your page

What type of image attracts viewers?

  • Emotion – feelings lead to action
  • Relevance – make sure it fits your audience’s interests
  • Colors – make the image attractive
  • Typography – make your message clear
  • Hashtags and text – use the right words that cause your audience to interact

Coca-Cola Facebook cover photo

Think outside the box:

  • Promote your social media campaigns

Canva Facebook cover photo

  • Change the image based on special occasions, events, sales, or holidays

Carousell Facebook cover video

  • Use it to send people a special offer

World Triathlon Facebook cover photo

Continue reading for more tips, examples, and a showcase of great cover photos

Save

Save

Save

Save

month
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Join us next month in Sopron, Hungary for a one-of-a-kind conference on reporting truth in the midst of crisis.

Meet with some 100 Christian journalists, editors, publishers, and bloggers to discuss how to report responsibly on the challenges of a world increasingly impacted by crises of all kinds, from terrorism to war to natural disasters.

Read what two participants are saying about the conference:

Readers are inundated with information and many of them do not have the tools to know whether what they are reading is true. This conference will offer a fresh approach for media in my country. I can see a new opportunity for a professional approach to crisis publishing.–Ruben, publisher in Romania

I want to attend this conference to learn how to reach the refugee community of Malaysia more effectively. I believe I will return to Malaysia prepared to give my readership timely information that is important and encouraging.–Dildar, editor in Malaysia

Register Today

Donate for our matching grant challenge

conclusions
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Well done! You’ve carefully organized and constructed an article from the introduction to the final point. But now it’s time to wrap up your masterpiece. No matter how tempting it is to introduce a new idea, the conclusion is a paragraph that allows the reader to read in peace, without unanswered questions or ideas that weren’t explained crowding their minds.

Instead of bringing in new points, the conclusion is the perfect place to summarize the message, restate the main points, project the future, or challenge the reader to take action. While many writers use a combination of two or more of the elements listed above, another effective way to end an article is with a punchline.

Punchlines are memorable phrases that leave a strong impression in the reader’s mind. They strengthen the conclusions and illustrate the importance of the article. A punchline is usually short, carries a universal truth, and might have a play on words.

Three basic punchline techniques:

  • End with a question.
    • What kind of message is your life sending the world? –Susan Nikaido, excerpt from the article Integrity Matters.
  • End with a quote.
    • “I will never be released from prison,” he said last week. “I deserve to be in prison for the rest of my life. I can accept that.” –Blaine Harden, excerpt from the article ‘Son of Sam’ Film Revives Painful Memories.
  • End with an illustration.
    • Now when I look in the mirror, I know God the creator is looking at me too and together we both see the same thing. Someone beautiful. –Carey Posey, excerpt from the article Someone Beautiful.

Try it out! Practice writing punchline-conclusions by cutting off the conclusion of a magazine article or an article you wrote. Then write several new conclusions for the article. Try to use a different strategy each time. You could end with a question for one, and then project the future for another. Don’t be afraid to use combinations. Which style of conclusion is most effective for the article?

Want more? Purchase and download the complete writing manual from our resource store.

overwhelmed
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“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” said Steve Jobs.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks before you, it is time to take a closer look and choose a focus for your company, your products, and your job. Without focus you will most likely attempt to do too many things, and, as a result, do them poorly.

Use these tips to sort through the backlog on your to-do list, and to learn about selection, prioritization, and refactoring — which will make things better in the long run.

  • Single-tasking. When you think you are multitasking, what you are actually doing is inefficiently flipping between several single tasks and distracting yourself repeatedly. Better to do one thing, finish it and move on.
  • Concentration. There are at least 22 ways to stay focused on your work
  • Getting up early. By getting up an hour earlier and using the quiet time before the day for creative work can be incredibly productive.
  • BANJO = bang another nasty job out. That thing that you’re putting off because it’s complicated, gritty and not quite urgent enough to do now but important enough to nag at you. Yeah, that one. Just do it now.
  • Cancel those meetings. Meetings are the opposite of work. If you have to have them, have quicker, shorter, better meetings
  • Delegate. Even if your colleagues are also very busy, you can assign them tasks to do later and at least clear them off your plate. You can also find freelancers, contractors and associates who can help carry the load when things are really busy. 
  • Prioritize. Prioritize your tasks and choose to focus on just a few things at a time.

If you are going to be busy, be busy doing the right thing.

Adapted from an article by Matthew Stibbe