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A Guide to Effective Fact Checking On-air and Online

October 11, 2012 in Craft, Resources

Drawing on Annenberg Public Policy Center research conducted over a period of more than 20 years, this video “Guide to Fact Checking On-Air and Online” shows how to minimize the power of the political ads aired in news reports and increase the effectiveness of ad watches.” Source:

Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is a video-based counterpart to APPC’s award-winning program uses parody and humor to debunk false political advertising, poke fun at extreme language, and hold the media accountable for their reporting on political campaigns.” Source: About Us

Conversations for impact: New ethical considerations for political coverage

October 10, 2012 in Blog, Craft

Doug Oplinger presenting at KSU

Akron Beacon Journal managing editor Doug Oplinger says journalists let “too many politicians… shove their own agendas down the pipe.” Credit: Kent State University

Journalism Accelerator

Getting somewhere new. That’s what the four online JA conversations building on the 2012 Poynter/Kent State media ethics workshop are designed to do. Tap into the wisdom of people experienced in ethics, political coverage or both; hear the questions of those fresh to the field; create, informed by these conversations, a crowdsourced best practices guide to political coverage exploring approaches and challenges across the field.

Kent State University journalism professor Jan Leach will lead the creation of that guide in early 2013. Meanwhile, the conversation threads stay open for your input. Outlined below are a number of places where we welcome you to participate! This post highlights key points from discussions on fact-checking and changing the approach to reporting. An earlier distillation covers conversations on managing “access journalism” and the challenges of social media in political coverage. Read the rest of this entry →

Verify U.S. Federal Government Social Media Accounts

August 24, 2012 in Craft, Resources

There are thousands of social media accounts claiming to be associated with the federal government, but how do you know which are real? It’s relatively easy to set up a Twitter account or Facebook profile claiming government connections that aren’t real.

Officials at the General Services Administration want to to aid citizens with a new tool to allow them to find out if a given account is legit.

Available on, GSA’s Social Media Registry supports more than 20 of the most common social media platforms. Its main purpose is three-fold:

The public will be able to verify that a social media account is run by the government, or spot a fake.

The registry will help manage all these accounts governmentwide by offering application programming interfaces that allow agencies to get data about their agencies.

Finally, the registry serves as a one-stop shop that eliminates the need for different solutions for each agency.

The database is build in Ruby on Rails — an open-source web framework — and officials said the code that powers the registry is open source and available on GitHub. Officials said they teamed with industry partners such as Sunlight Labs, Code for America and Expert Labs to make the registry open and sharable…

Only accounts of official U.S. government agencies, organizations or programs will be tracked by the registry. Government employees will be able to register accounts managed by federal agencies, elected officials, members of the president’s cabinet and heads of agencies. No personal, employee or other types of social media accounts will be included.” Source: Federal Computer Week

Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter

August 24, 2012 in Craft, Resources

PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and its partners to help you find the truth in politics.

Every day, reporters and researchers from PolitiFact and its partner news organization examine statements by members of Congress, state legislators, governors, mayors, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and anyone else who speaks up in American politics. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get our lowest rating, Pants on Fire…

How the Truth-O-Meter works

The heart of PolitiFact is the Truth-O-Meter, which we use to rate factual claims.

The Truth-O-Meter is based on the concept that – especially in politics – truth is not black and white.
PolitiFact writers and editors spend considerable time researching and deliberating on our rulings. We always try to get the original statement in its full context rather than an edited form that appeared in news stories. We then divide the statement into individual claims that we check separately.

When possible, we go to original sources to verify the claims. We look for original government reports rather than news stories. We interview impartial experts.” Source: PolitiFact

You can now embed part of PolitiFact into your website. Our widgets will put the latest Truth-O-Meter and Obameter rulings on your page. They flex to fit just about any width hole you want them in. Best of all, they update dynamically, so they always contain the latest rulings.” Source: PolitiFact

Truth in the Age of Social Media

August 13, 2012 in Craft, Resources

The new issue of Nieman Reports includes an exhaustive cover package about the craft of verification.

The issue includes contributions from journalists with Associated Press, the BBC, CNN, and Storyful, among other outlets. Incoming New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan also contributed a piece.

The articles deliver advice, case studies and insight into what it’s like to verify information flowing in from social networks and a multitude of other sources.

I was honored to write an introductory essay for the package. I attempted to outline some of the challenges and opportunities presented by today’s decentralized, democratized and socialized media world…

Reading through the different articles, I was struck by how much of the advice overlapped; the verification advice from the BBC’s User Generated Content Hub, Storyful’s Mark Little, AP’s Santiago Lyon and CNN iReport’s Lila King all hit similar points.

That’s a good thing.

It suggests that, even amid the rapidly changing world of journalism and citizen media, there are new best practices being applied across newsrooms. We have a sense of what’s working, and a productive way to do this work.

As a result, this issue’s collection of checklists, case studies and other tips is something of a blueprint for journalists looking to build their skills in this area, or organizations trying to establish policies and procedures for vetting information. It’s a state of the art crib sheet of best practices.

One key piece of advice for verifying user generated content that’s repeated over and over again may seem obvious but is too often ignored: always contact the person who uploaded or provided the material. In other words, check the source as much as the information…

Another theme in the package is uncertainty. Verification may seem like an exact science, but it usually comes down to collecting as much information as possible and practicing triangulation to make an informed decision. There is always the risk that you make the wrong call, or act too soon. Errors are a constant concern, and a fact of life.”
Source: Poynter’s Regret the Error