Australian Associated Press

Organization: Australian Associated Press
Applicant: Philip McLean
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Conclusion and recommendations
on 26-Mar-2019 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Contact information and submission process can be found here


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



Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Corrections policy and procedures link

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

Michael Wagner Assessor
26-Mar-2019 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year 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.

Section 7: Eligibility to be a signatory

Criterion 1.1
The applicant is a legally registered organization, or a distinct team or unit within a legally registered organization, and details of this are easily found on its website.

Criterion 1.2
The team, unit or organization is set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking.

Criterion 1.3
The applicant has published an average of at least one fact check a week over the course of the three months prior to the date of application.

Criterion 1.4
On average, at least 75% of the applicant’s fact checks focus on claims related to issues that, in the view of the IFCN, relate to or could have an impact on the welfare or well-being of individuals, the general public or society.

Criterion 1.5
The applicant’s editorial output is not, in the view of the IFCN, controlled by the state, a political party or politician.

Criterion 1.6
If the organization receives funding from local or foreign state or political sources, it provides a statement on its site setting out to the satisfaction of the IFCN, how it ensures its funders do not influence the findings of its reports.

Section 8: A commitment to Non-partisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2.1
The applicant fact-checks using the same high standards of evidence and judgement for equivalent claims regardless of who made the claim.

Criterion 2.2
The applicant does not unduly concentrate its fact-checking on any one side, considers the reach and importance of claims it selects to check and publishes a short statement on its website to set out how it selects claims to check.

Criterion 2.3
The applicant discloses in its fact checks relevant interests of the sources it quotes where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided. It also discloses in its fact checks any commercial or other such relationships it has that a member of the public might reasonably conclude could influence the findings of the fact check.

Criterion 2.4
The applicant is not as an organization affiliated with nor declares or shows support for any party, any politician or political candidate, nor does it advocate for or against any policy positions on any issues save for transparency and accuracy in public debate.

Criterion 2.5
The applicant sets out its policy on non-partisanship for staff on its site. Save for the issues of accuracy and transparency, the applicant’s staff do not get involved in advocacy or publicise their views on policy issues the organization might fact check in such a way as might lead a reasonable member of the public to see the organization’s work as biased.

Section 9: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3.1
The applicant identifies the source of all significant evidence used in their fact checks, providing relevant links where the source is available online, in such a way that users can replicate their work if they wish. In cases where identifying the source would compromise the source’s personal security, the applicant provides as much detail as compatible with the source’s safety.

Criterion 3.2
The applicant uses the best available primary, not secondary, sources of evidence wherever suitable primary sources are available. Where suitable primary sources are not available, the applicant explains the use of a secondary source.

Criterion 3.3
The applicant checks all key elements of claims against more than one named source of evidence save where the one source is the only source relevant on the topic.

Criterion 3.4
The applicant identifies in its fact checks the relevant interests of the sources it uses where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided.

Section 10: A commitment to Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4.1
Applicants that are independent organizations have a page on their website detailing each source of funding accounting for 5% or more of total revenue for its previous financial year. This page also sets out the legal form in which the organization is registered (e.g. as a non-profit, as a company etc).

Criterion 4.2
Applicants that are the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization make a statement on ownership.

Criterion 4.3
A statement on the applicant’s website sets out the applicant’s organizational structure and makes clear how and by whom editorial control is exercised.

Criterion 4.4
A page on the applicant’s website details the professional biography of all those who, according to the organizational structure and play a significant part in its editorial output.

Criterion 4.5
The applicant provides easy means on its website and/or via social media for users to communicate with the editorial team.

Section 11: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5.1
The applicant publishes on its website a statement about the methodology it uses to select, research, write and publish its fact checks.

Criterion 5.2
The applicant selects claims to check based primarily on the reach and importance of the claims, and where possible explains the reason for choosing the claim to check.

Criterion 5.3
The applicant sets out in its fact checks relevant evidence that appears to support the claim as well as relevant evidence that appears to undermine it.

Criterion 5.4
The applicant in its fact checks assesses the merits of the evidence found using the same high standards applied to evidence on equivalent claims, regardless of who made the claim.

Criterion 5.5
The applicant seeks where possible to contact those who made the claim to seek supporting evidence, noting that (i) this is often not possible with online claims, (ii) if the person who makes the claim fails to reply in a timely way this should not impede the fact check, (iii) if a speaker adds caveats to the claim, the fact-checker should be free to continue with checking the original claim, (iv) fact-checkers may not wish to contact the person who made the claim for safety or other legitimate reasons.

Criterion 5.6
The applicant encourages users to send in claims to check, while making it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable.

Section 12: A commitment to an Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6.1
The applicant has a corrections or complaints policy that is easily visible and accessible on the organization’s website or frequently referenced in broadcasts.

Criterion 6.2
The policy sets out clear definitions of what it does and does not cover, how major mistakes, especially those requiring revised conclusions of a fact check, are handled, and the fact that some complaints may justify no response. This policy is adhered to scrupulously.

Criterion 6.3
Where credible evidence is provided that the applicant has made a mistake worthy of correction, the applicant makes a correction openly and transparently, seeking as far as possible to ensure that users of the original see the correction and the corrected version.

Criterion 6.4
The applicant, if an existing signatory, should either on its corrections/complaints page or on the page where it declares itself an IFCN signatory inform users that if they believe the signatory is violating the IFCN Code, they may inform the IFCN, with a link to the IFCN site.

Criterion 6.5
If the applicant is the fact-checking unit of a media company, it is a requirement of signatory status that the parent media company has and adheres to an open and honest corrections policy.