Organization: AP Fact Check
Applicant: Barbara Whitaker
Assessor: Margot Susca
Edits made by the organization after this assessment
IFCN Staff wrote:
Below is a description of the recent changes we’ve made to our application to become a signatory to the IFCN Code of Principles.
Please note that our response to item 3a is not reflected in the application that was returned to us. I have addressed this, as well as all the other suggestions.
More importantly, I take issue with the lead comment on our assessment that states, the “... AP must do a better job distinguishing its AP Fact Check arm as independent from AP the global news organization.”
The AP is a large global news organization with experts in a number of fields and topics and we have been fact-checking material and providing objective, unbiased news reports for nearly two centuries. While we do have a dedicated team that focuses primarily on fact checks, any reporter at the AP is entrusted to compose an AP Fact Check. We believe it is a strength to be able to leverage the collective knowledge and expertise of our reporters to produce fact checks.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
I. Criterion 2b: Nonpartisanship policy.
Please note we have included the following on the AP Fact Check hub of our “Fact Checking at the AP page,” https://www.apnews.com/afs:Content:962150029:
As with all AP staff, AP fact checkers must adhere to the company’s Statement of News Values, which states: “AP employees must avoid behavior or activities - political, social or financial - that create a conflict of interest or compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.”
More information about AP’s policy can be found here: https://www.ap.org/about/news-values-and-principles/
In addition, we have added an explanation of who conducts AP Fact Checks and biographies of our AP Fact Check team.
II.Criterion 3a: Sources Policy
We provide as many links as possible in the story itself, or noted at the bottom, to the primary and secondary sources we used to put together the fact check.
We also link to a blog from our Standards Editor John Daniszewski entitled: “What we fact-check and why,” https://blog.ap.org/behind-the-news/what-we-fact-check-and-why?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=AssociatedPress&utm_content=Definitive+Source
III.Criterion 4a: Funding Sources
Please note we have added the following language to our site:
The AP is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative composed of newspapers and broadcasters. The vast majority of AP’s revenue comes from licensing content to news outlets and other organizations. The AP Fact Check team is funded by AP’s general news budget has previously received funding from the Knight Foundation.
Read more about the AP here: https://www.ap.org/about/
Our 2017 financial report is available to the public: https://www.ap.org/about/annual-report/2017/ap-financials-2017.pdf
For more information about the AP’s grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, please visit: https://www.ap.org/press-releases/2017/ap-to-enhance-fact-checks-with-245-000-from-knight.
IV.Criterion 4b: Staff
Please note we have added the biographies of our Fact Check team to our site:
The AP Fact Check team includes the staffers listed below. However, fact-checking is deeply integrated into our whole global operation and we rely on the expertise of our journalists on a wide variety of topics to inform our fact-checking work. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see two bylines, or contributor lines, on a fact check. In addition, any staffer may choose to do a fact check in text or visuals with reporting help and guidance from the Fact Check team.
BEATRICE DUPUY is a fact check reporter based in New York City. She has worked for Teen Vogue, Newsweek and The Star Tribune in Minneapolis. At the Star Tribune, Dupuy reported on county government and education. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism with a minor in French from the University of Florida.
JOSEPH GEDEON is a fact check editor based in Phoenix. He previously covered U.S. politics, world news and foreign affairs at Newsweek. Gedeon speaks English, French and Arabic and has reported out of the Middle East, Canada and the United States.
CHLOE KIM is a fact check reporter in Washington, D.C. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from American University, where she focused on videography, copywriting and radio. Most recently, she covered technology in local government and education for a tech media company in Washington.
KAREN MAHABIR oversees fact-checking at The Associated Press. She has worked as a reporter, editor and producer for the AP in its Mexico City, Washington and New York offices. Mahabir also served as Managing Editor of News for The Huffington Post for two years and has spent many years working as a reporter and columnist at several newspapers in New York City and New Jersey. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, with a concentration in African, Asian and Caribbean Studies, from the University of Sussex in England. She also has a master’s degree in International Journalism from City University of London.
AMANDA SEITZ is a fact check reporter based in Chicago who has focused on investigative reporting and government and political coverage. Her work has taken her from Wausau, Wisconsin, where Seitz spent a night in minus-8-degree weather documenting the city’s homeless population, to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she interviewed hundreds of voters ahead of the 2016 election in one of the country’s most crucial swing states.
JENNY UNG is a fact check reporter based in Phoenix. Ung graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where she focused on education and political reporting. She previously worked as an education reporter in Palm Springs and was a Pulliam Fellow at the Indianapolis Star. She was also a fact check intern at The Arizona Republic and a politics intern at USA Today in Washington, DC.
BARBARA WHITAKER is a fact check editor based in New York. During her 30 years in journalism, she's worked nationally and internationally for publications including The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Newsday and The Dallas Morning News. Whitaker also taught a lifestyle journalism class while editing for the AP on contract in Warsaw, Poland.
CAL WOODWARD has been fact-checking public figures for more than 20 years under an AP initiative that took form in the 1996 election, advanced in 2000 and became a key component of our accountability journalism through that decade. A national writer, editor and essayist, he has been writing and coordinating Washington-based fact checks as his primary work since before the 2012 election. In this time, AP’s effort has greatly expanded beyond campaign and top presidential rhetoric to include statements from all manner of public figures. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, Woodward’s fact checks stood as a rare voice calling attention to the unverified rationales for the invasion. In the 2008 campaign, he worked with our health policy reporter to inform voters that Barack Obama’s proposed health overhaul did not substantiate his claims that people would see lower premiums and maintain the right to choose their own doctors. Woodward came to AP from The Canadian Press, where he covered U.S. politics, the United Nations, culture and sports from New York and Washington, after serving as a regional news editor and reporter in Canada.
HOPE YEN is a national reporter based in Washington, D.C. She regularly contributes fact check stories in tandem with senior writer and editor Calvin Woodward. In her 15 years in Washington, she has reported on the Supreme Court, demographics, veterans affairs and politics. Her methodical count of the Democratic delegates in the 2016 presidential election was cited by Politico as "one of the 16 stories that changed the 2016 race," confirming before every other news outlet that Hillary Clinton would win her party's nomination. Yen previously covered business and the courts for the AP in New York City, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa.
V.Criterion 5a: Detailed methodology
Please note we have added this material to our site, https://www.apnews.com/afs:Content:962150029:
Fact-checking is deeply integrated into all of the AP’s work, and we leverage the power of our global presence to produce AP Fact Checks. We produce fact checks when we are presented with a claim from a newsmaker _ in any format _ that deserves further explanation or scrutiny. The AP Fact Check team, along with our experts in the field, investigates and reports out that claim to present the facts around it. These claims can come from newsmakers from any news department, and they are fact-checked by our AP experts, with oversight, guidance and reporting help from the AP Fact Check team.
The AP Fact Check team also works to debunk misleading or false information in text or visuals through an item known as Not Real News.
VI.Criterion 5b: Claim submissions
We welcome requests submitted to us through our FactCheck@ap.org address, and we seek input from our large member network. We also rely on our editorial judgement in determining which claims from newsmakers to check.
Please note we have added this to our site, https://www.apnews.com/afs:Content:962150029:
COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS/CLAIMS TO SUBMIT
Want to reach out with a comment or fact-checking suggestion? Do you see something that needs a correction? Email us at FactCheck@ap.org.
FROM THE ASSESSOR:
I believe AP Fact Check has satisfied my initial concerns about its 2018 application. While I understand that AP has a longstanding tradition of fact-based reporting and is committed to the highest standards in U.S. journalism, I did believe the site required some updates to make it compliant with IFCN standards. Those updates, which include AP Fact Check adding bios of staff members who complete its fact checks as well as more detailed funding information and information about its methodology, are satisfactory in making AP Fact Check fully compliant.
Conclusion and recommendations
Margot Susca wrote:
As is noted in sections deemed non-compliant or partially compliant, AP must do a better job distinguishing its AP Fact Check arm as independent from AP the global news organization. Its application notes that it does not have sections on methodology or a systematic process that it can provide. But it must. It must do a better job explaining its role as the Fact Check arm of AP and provide clear details about how readers can submit claims to be fact checked as well as state who among its global staff are conducting the Fact Checks. What is the process by which it selects staff do conduct these fact checks outside of its regular fact checking that is clearly a part of its daily journalism mission? Why these claims? How can readers ask questions about the process? I want to be clear that these sections marked as partially compliant or non-compliant do not reflect a perception that AP Fact Check isn't doing important work fact checking claims and statements. But, what is *not* clear is how and why AP Fact Check conducts the work that it does.
A complaint was filed with IFCN in June 2018 that raised questions about AP Fact Check's partisanship and transparency as relates to sources. I disagree with the complainant that AP Fact Check demonstrates clear bias in the fact checks it has selected--the application clearly shows fact checks from both major political parties. But, it should do more to explain the process behind which it selects fact checks and reveal methodologies for transparency of fact checking claims and sources. And, in doing so, it should provide clear statements about how it fact checked those claims. What records were used? What statements were used to verify or contradict a politician's claim? I don't see that done systematically and without a clear statement of process, AP Fact Check may continue to be seen as not having a transparent process.
Further, AP Fact Check should do more to say why a staff member was selected to conduct the fact check of a claim. Who is the staff member? What is their expertise? Perhaps even a link to a Twitter bio or LinkedIn page would help to ensure the public that they are getting a fair fact check that is transparent. And that can be replicated by a third party.
As mentioned in the assessment of sections, AP Fact Check provides a link to its “Fact-checking at the AP” website, which lists a tweet with information from Vice President for Standards John Daniszewski that further explains its policy. Users who click on that tweet’s embedded link are directed to an error message. This should be fixed.But, also, it doesn't show how the Fact Check is different from regular fact checking that is a part of its journalism. This requires some re-thinking about how it is presented online and where online users are directed to find the information.
In so many ways, AP sets the standards for news gathering ethically and using transparent means. This redo or rethinking of its methods, sources and transparency has the opportunity to continue allowing AP Fact Check to do its important work while it also can be a standard bearer for others in the field looking to create a unique fact check section or arm of its organization.