AP Fact Check

Organization: AP Fact Check
Applicant: Karen Mahabir
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.

Thank you,

Karen Mahabir

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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
on 11-Sep-2018 (9 months ago)

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. 

on 11-Sep-2018 (9 months ago)

Margot Susca recommended Accept with edits


Section 1: Organization

Criterion 1a
Proof of registration
Evidence required: Please provide evidence that the signatory is a legally-registered organization set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking or the distinct fact-checking project of a recognized media house or research institution.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

The evidence sent by the applicant complies with IFCN criteria. 


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

Criterion 1b
Archive
Evidence required: Insert a link to the archive of fact checks published in the previous three months. If you do not collect all fact checks in one place, please explain how the fact-checking is conducted by your organization.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

The evidence sent by the applicant complies with IFCN criteria.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 2: Nonpartisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2a
Body of work sample
Evidence required: Please share links to ten fact checks that better represent the scope and consistency of your fact-checking. Provide a short explanation of how your organization strives to maintain coherent standards across fact checks.

Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

Clearly AP Fact Check does its work fact checking issues in a way that is not partisan. As examples, it had fact checks from both sides of the aisle including one fact check about statements from Donald Trump and another from Democrat Rahm Emanuel. 


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

Criterion 2b
Nonpartisanship policy
Evidence required: Please share evidence of your policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations. Please also indicate the policy your organization has as a whole regarding advocacy and supporting political candidates.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago

This is detailed in AP's Statement of News Values and Principles:

https://www.ap.org/about/news-values-and-principles/


Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

AP has a long history of non-partisanship that is to be revered in journalism. But, I believe this is the first of several sections where AP as a news organization needs to be distinguished from AP Fact Check. A link to AP’s news values does not do enough to help the public see who AP Fact Check is and how it sets the policies of this part of its overarching mission. 


done 2b marked as Partially compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 3: Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3a
Sources Policy
Please share a brief and public explanation (500 words max) of how sources are provided in enough detail that readers could replicate the fact check. If you have a public policy on how you find and use sources for your fact-checking, it should be shared here.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

I have no doubt that AP’s fact checks are a key part of its journalism. But, in this section, it fails to clearly identify the process for those fact checks and, without a discussion of its methodology, it falls short in this category. Readers should be able to document along with AP Fact Check how its work was done.

Further, in its link in its application 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. It links to an AZ Republic article that does this masterfully. It could be a model for a more general AP Fact Check policy. 


done 3a marked as Partially compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 4: Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4a
Funding Sources
Evidence required: Please link to the section where you publicly list your sources of funding (including, if they exist, any rules around which types of funding you do or don't accept), or a statement on ownership if you are the branch of an established media organization or research institution.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

As the Fact Check arm of the AP, I don’t see any information provided in the link that details its funding or sources of funding. In fact, its application takes you to the same website mentioned in 3a that goes to an error message. 


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Margot Susca.

Criterion 4b
Staff
Evidence required: Please link to the section detailing all authors and key actors behind your fact-checking project with their biographies. You can also list the name and bios of the members of the editorial board, pool of experts, advisory board, etc. if your organization has those.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago

We don't have such a section. Our fact checks are executed by AP journalists with the appropriate expertise – it can be any of hundreds of people from around the organization.

Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

In its application AP writes “We don’t have such a section.” But its response isn’t enough in the vein of what the Fact Check site should do. Again, I don’t doubt the transparency and commitment to Ethics that AP has as a news organization. But, here, it needs to do a better job explaining how its fact checks are chosen to be done and by whom.

In AP Fact Check’s application the organization notes that its global team of journalists work on its fact checks. It owes its readers the opportunity in its fact checks to note why these journalists conducted the fact checks; as an option even a link to the journalist’s Twitter or bio page would help to increase transparency in this area.

At a minimum, if AP feels it cannot--due to the number of staffers--I would like to see an explanation on its site that explains this structure of how and why a staff member may be asked to fact check the claim outside the normal course of reporting. This may help to avoid claims from critics that could say, “Well if the journalist is so biased, then the fact check must be biased.” Increased transparency can help avoid such criticisms. 


cancel 4b marked as Non compliant by Margot Susca.

Criterion 4c
Contact
Evidence required: Please link to the section where readers can get in touch with the organization.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

The evidence submitted fully complies with IFCN criteria. 


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 5: Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5a
Detailed Methodology
Evidence required: Please link to a section or article detailing the steps you follow for your fact-checking work.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

On individual fact checks available on the right of this webpage, there is clear information about sources and facts that are being debunked, but a more general policy on methodology would be helpful and help users of the site and AP Fact Check. How are stories selected? What claims are chosen? What is the process by which it selects how to go about fact checking a claim? This need to be explained. 


done 5a marked as Partially compliant by Margot Susca.

Criterion 5b
Claim submissions
Evidence required: Please link to the page or process through which readers can submit claims to fact-check. If you do not allow this, please briefly explain why.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago

We don't have a systematic process for this, though we do welcome requests submitted to us through our FactCheck@ap.org address.

Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

AP Fact Check says it doesn’t “have a systematic process.” Without one, it can fall claim to criticism. If it fails to have a systematic process, it should make clear to readers/users why it doesn’t. 


done 5b marked as Partially compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 6: Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6a
Corrections policy
Evidence required: Please link to the page with your policy to address corrections. If it is not public, please share your organization's handbook.

AP Fact Check
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 10 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

Clear corrections policy. 


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

Criterion 6b
Examples of corrections
Evidence required: Please provide two examples of a correction made, or correction requests handled, in the past year.

Margot Susca Assessor
11-Jun-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 9 months ago

The evidence submitted is compliant with IFCN criteria. 


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.