Australian Associated Press

Organization: Australian Associated Press
Applicant: Philip McLean
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Conclusion and recommendations
on 26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago)

Michael Wagner wrote:

I recommend that Australian Associated Press FactCheck (AAPFC's) application be accepted with edits.

Australian Associated Press FactCheck is a professional, quality operation that conducts fact-checks of claims about a variety of social and political issues and claims made by political leaders. The work is balanced, fair, and largely transparent. The conclusions they draw are clearly tied to their rating scale and methodology. The work they do is transparent enough to be replicated.

However, the site, apparently following the parent organization's authorship rules, does not list who their journalists are, and as such, makes it impossible for the audience to know who is conducting fact-check jourrnalism on AAPFC's behalf. I recommend listing the journalists and their biographies on the website and providing bylines for writers of fact-checks. 

For audience members seeking to comment or complain, however, it is a bit harder than it needs to be. I recommend a separate navigation tab for Comments be placed by the Make a Submission tab (which is very well donoe). 

IFCN requires a more thorough accounting of how fact-checking organizations spend their resources, something the site does not currently do, but should. 

on 26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago)

Michael Wagner 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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

Australian Associated Press (referred to as AAP hereafter) is a legally registered business, operating for 85 years as a media company. Registration documentation from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission is attached. 

AAP has established a fact-checking unit in its newsroom.

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf AAP business registr... (44 KB)
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

The AAP is a media company that claims to have a fact-checking unit in its newsroom. The "FactCheck team" (https://factcheck.aap.com.au/about-us/factcheck-team) is not really a group of distinct fact-checkers, but a list of the AAP's editorial staff, one of whom is the AAP Editor. No reporters are listed. The file attached of the AAP Business Rergistration does not meet the criteria for full compliance, but it does note that further information can be purchased from them. When publishing fact-checks, AAP lists AAP FactCheck as the author, never an individual (or specific team of) journalist(s) or editor.


done 1a marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP publishes reports that clearly seek to evaluate distinct claims on the exclusive basis of their accuracy. Each fact-check begins with the statement being checked, who made the statement and when it was made. Then, "The Analysis" section explains whether the statement held up to their reporting and analytic scrutiny. AAP regularly publishes fact-checks in accordance with IFCN guidelines.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP fact-checks a variety of newsworthy claims made from a diverse array of sources. The topics vary from claims about matters of social import to matters of political important. The claims are assessed along the same scale, which notably includes a category of "Ambiguous" - which could mean that there is an equal weight to true and false elements of the claim or it could mean that the claim cannot be properly assessed given the information available. The claims are reasoanbly assessed and my reading of the ten examples and additional fact-checks on their site revealed a general coherence to the ratings. However, there are times when Ambiguous is arguably a better choice than the assessment AAP FactCheck lands upon. For example, in the fact-check about whether the number of police officers has declined since 2012 notes that AAP FactCheck was not able to acquire the current numbers of police officers. Even so, a rating of Mostly True is offerred. Given the data from 2017 AAP FactCheck provided, this is reasonable, but it does not demonstrate whether the claim is true today in 2019.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP has always been at the forefront of delivering impartial, independent and accurate news to Australia’s leading media outlets and beyond. It is one of only a handful of news agencies worldwide not funded or influenced by its government.

AAP FactCheck was built on this foundation, and the articles we produce are influenced only by the available evidence. In following the facts, we adhere to the AAP policies that protect and enhance our neutrality.

The AAP policy on Impartiality and Fairness is copied below. AAP’s full Code of Practice can be found at .https://www.aap.com.au/standards-and-ethics-2/


Impartiality and Fairness

2.1. AAP does not promote particular views or commercial interests, either through undue emphasis or by suppressing relevant material.

2.2. In reporting views on controversial matters, always seek to include a fair balance of other views. Any comment or conjecture by the journalist writing the story should be identifiable as such.

2.3. AAP journalists have latitude to express their own views more freely only when, in the opinion of the Editor in Chief or Editor, they have special knowledge or expertise or sufficient reputation. Such pieces should be labelled as View, Comment or Analysis.

2.4. Individuals or groups singled out for criticism should be given a right of reply, in the original story whenever possible.

2.5. Emotive or contentious adjectives should be avoided unless they are being quoted.

Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

The AAP does not have a policy forbidding journalists from supporting candidates. Indeed, the AAP allows journalists to express their own view in stories (but not news stories, which presumably includes fact-checks) under specific circumstances ("AAP journalists have latitude to express their own views more freely only when, in the opinion of the Editor in Chief or Editor, they have special knowledge or expertise or sufficient reputation. Such pieces should be labelled as View, Comment or Analysis"). That said, there is a clear statement that "AAP does not promote particiular views or commercial interests, either through undue emphasis or by suppressing relevant material." There does not appear to be a policy that prevents staff from direct involvement in political parties or advocacy organizations. I was not able to locate an example of the AAP itself endorsing a candidate.


done 2b marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

Research procedures

Newly selected submissions are discussed at the daily AAP FactCheck conference. The team identifies the verifiable elements of each contested claim and workshops the most relevant, trusted sources to draw on. The editor then assigns each submission to a dedicated journalist and sets an internal deadline – usually a progress report within 4 hours.

The AAP FactCheck journalist then begins the work of verifying the facts. This may include contacting experts with varying views on the matter, non-partisan government agencies, academics, think tanks, reputable charities or other well-respected non-government organisations with relevant, specific and recognised expertise in the subject area. The journalist may also turn to reliable secondary source material, such as government reports and court documents, and must always consider contacting the person who made the statement to ask for their supporting evidence, and request comment.

Links to all source material referenced in an AAP FactCheck story are fully named and published at the end of the story.

Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP FactCheck lists links of most of the relevant sources they use to assess claims of fact in their work. The links include other published journalism, official government sources and academic work. Interviews with subjects of fact-checks are often referenced, but they (i.e. transcripts) are not listed in the reference material at the end of the story. It is simple for readers to understand which source is used where in every story. If readers want to replicate a fact-check, enough information is provided for them to do so - though, of course, the reader conducting a fact-check is less likely to get a callback from a politician than a news organization doing so.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP's statement of financial structure, funding sources and organisational chart can be found here

https://factcheck.aap.com.au/about-us/about-aap


Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP's shareholding structure is as follows:  News Corp Limited (44.74%), Fairfax Media Limited (44.74%), West Australian Newspapers Limited (8.25%) and Harris Enterprises Pty Limited. This is clearly listed through the About Us feature on their website.

AAP derives income from subscriptions to its news and information services. AAP clearly states that funders are not to be provided any special accommodation via their funding of the organization. The site lists a clear organizational chart as well. AAP does not provide an accounting of expenditures.


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago
AAP's key fact-check personnel and their biographies can be found here


https://factcheck.aap.com.au/about-us/factcheck-team


Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

It is not possible to know who writes the fact-checks for AAP FactCheck. No reporters names are ever listed. As such, the ability of readers to comprehensively assess the training, experience, and/or incentives facing the AAP FactCheck reporters is not present on the site. The About Us page lists the AAP editors and the FactCheck editor's names and biographies. It is not clear if the editors are also the reporters, but it seems not, given how other policies are written. There is not evidence that listing the names of the fact-checkers would put the journalists at risk. However, AAP does not appear to ever list the names of their journalists, even in typical news reporting and breaking news reporting.


cancel 4b marked as Non compliant by Michael Wagner.

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

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago
Contact information and submission process can be found here


https://factcheck.aap.com.au/make-a-submission



Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

It is very easy for the public to ask AAP FactCheck to check a particular claim. The "Make a Submission" tab is easily visible on the site. That same tab also says that readers can, "You can also contact AAP FactCheck via email to: provide feedback, make a complaint, request information request a correction." However, one wouold have to click on the "Make a Submission" tab to find that information. That is less clear than it should be.


done 4c marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP FactCheck clearly describes how they select claims, engage in the editorial and reporting process and ultimately rate the veracity of the claim. They differntiate Mosty True/False from Somewhat True/False in a clearer way than many other fact-checking organizations - with an assessment of whether there is more than one inaccuracy in the claim. Of course, some inaccuracies may be large and some may be small, but this methodology is clear nonetheless. 


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

It is exceptionally easy to submit a claim for AAP to fact-check. There is a clear portal and description of how to think about the selection criteria AAP FactCheck uses. The link provided by AAP is easy to find on their website.


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

Corrections policy and procedures link

https://factcheck.aap.com.au/claim-selection/corrections

Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP FactCheck has a clear and robust corrections policy that is easy for the audience to locate. It follows the same corrections policy that the rest of the site follows, adding in an additional layer of opportunity for audience members to move "up the chain of command," so to speak if it was the case that the audience members were not satisfied with AAP FactCheck's response. Each article ends by noting its "Revision History," which begins with when the article was initially published.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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

Australian Associated Press
14-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP has not had to correction any fact-check content to date. For the corrections procedure, please refer to https://factcheck.aap.com.au/claim-selection/corrections


Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (2 months ago) Updated: 2 months ago

AAP FactCheck has not had to issue a correction, but they do publish a revision history for every piece they publish so that it would be easy to track if and when AAP FactChek requires a correction.


done 6b marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.