Organization: Check Your Fact
Applicant: Jesse Stiller
Assessor: Lucas Graves
Edits made by the organization after this assessment
IFCN Staff wrote:
- We have attached our writer's agreement to this email
- We added language to our "Nonpartisanship and Fairness" page to clarify that all Daily Caller employees sign a nonpartisanship clause, and that the clause applies to both staff and contributors to Check Your Fact
- The assessor appears to have missed that our nonpartisanship policy is publicly disclosed here
- We added language to our "About Us" page to emphasize that Check Your Fact has editorial independence from the broader Daily Caller site
- Check Your Fact does not accept money from advocacy organizations - this is explained in more detail under Criterion 4a
- To address questions about its editorial independence, TheDCNF has added the following language to its website, which we now cite on Check Your Fact's "About Us" page:
"The following statement can be found on TheDCNF website: 'Editorial independence is central to TheDCNF’s mission of providing honest, balanced and ethical journalism. TheDCNF does not participate in or accept any support for lobbying activities. It does not accept any government funding or funds earmarked for advocacy. All editorial decisions are made exclusively by editors, with no direction from donors. A donation does not provide for any specific reporting, editorial review, or preview of unpublished stories.'"
- Staffing: As listed on the Check Your Fact website and criterion 4b, The Daily Caller has two fact check reporters - Aryssa Damron (started in January) and Shane Devine - as well as a dedicated editor, David Sivak; Check Your Fact contributors from TheDCNF are Emily Larsen and Brad Sylvester
- Overview of expenditures:
Daily Caller salaries and benefits - around $115,000 a year
DCNF salaries and benefits - around $80,000 a year
Website revenues - roughly $1,500 per month
- We have added language to The Daily Caller site that explains our relationship to TheDCNF
- To answer questions about its financials, TheDCNF provided us with their Form 990 (attached) and added a link to the form on their website; our "About Us" page now links to their 990 as well
- TheDCNF receives donations from individual donors and grants from non-profit foundations, including the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, the Triad Foundation, the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Holman Foundation, the Legett Foundation, the Kickapoo Springs Foundation, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, etc.
- We'd like to take the opportunity here to dispel the inaccurate reporting in the Sludge article mentioned back in November - I spoke with TheDCNF's chief development officer, and grants from the Charles Koch Foundation make up nowhere close to 83 percent of TheDCNF's annual budget - they're less than a quarter of their budget
- Per the assessor's comments, we'd like to emphasize that Check Your Fact is not owned by TheDCNF - it's owned by The Daily Caller, a separate legal entity
- We want to be really clear on this point - the employees listed above are funded by three sources alone: The Daily Caller's general operating budget, website revenues from www.checkyourfact.com and, on TheDCNF's end, a $100,000 grant from the Searle Freedom Trust
- We have greatly expanded our "Methodology" page to make it more "step-by-step," including more information on our rating system
- We have swapped out the generic "send tips" email address with my email address so that requests go right to the fact check editor
- We have made contact information for corrections more prominent - we moved the corrections email to the top of the "Contact Us" page, and we added language about corrections and a contact email to the top of our "About Us" page
- We solicit correction requests on multiple pages, including "About Us," "Corrections," "Nonpartisanship and Fairness," "Methodology" and "Contact Us."
- For the two corrections requests fielded in the last year, the requesters did receive a direct response: we emailed Jim Agresti about why we rated the claim "unsubstantiated," and TheDCNF had a 25 minute phone conversation with the University of Tulsa professor who sent in the other request
Conclusion and recommendations
Lucas Graves wrote:
We recommend that Check Your Fact's application be accepted, noting their record of publishing what appear to us to be even-handed and rigorous fact-checks directed across the political spectrum. However, we encourage the applicant to fully embrace the spirit of the Code of Principles' transparency provisions by offering more detail, more clearly, about the site's funding sources and expenditures.