Applicant: Maria Ressa and Gemma B. Mendoza
Assessor: Ma. Diosa Labiste
Edits made by the organization after this assessment
IFCN Staff wrote:
Conclusion and recommendations
Ma. Diosa Labiste wrote:
I recommend for the inclusion of Rappler in the IFCN’s network.
Rappler is among the top online news sites in the Philippines in terms of traffic. Its news format targets young readers latched onto their mobile communication gadgets. Rappler calls itself a “social news network.”
Fact-checking Rappler covers diverse topics like politics, culture and international relations. It does not only point out errors of fact or empirical information but also explains the context of the contested items in the news. Fact-checking appears prominently in three sections—“Fact Check,” “Fast Facts” and “Rappler IQ.” The fact-checking work in Rappler is aided by its database built by its precursor, Newsbreak magazine (defunct), which published award-winning investigative pieces and long form, and MovePH, which is the citizen journalism arm of Rappler. The investigative arm of Rappler was also named “Newsbreak.” Both Rappler and MovePH have their own set of codes of ethics that spelled out the general and specific guidelines such as how to avoid bias in news production and conflict of interests. Specific guidelines, for example, cover situations like accepting gadgets after a review (don’t) and avoiding expensive lunch or dinner treats.
Rappler was ahead in adopting external fact-checking as a newsroom practice in the Philippines. This fact-checking enterprise became prominent during the May 2016 national elections where statements of presidential and vice presidential candidates were subjected to verification of facts and contexts. While Rappler was praised for pointing out inconsistencies in the statements of politicians, it also earned the ire of some political groups and agents that accused Rappler of partisanship. The accusation continues to this day but mostly coming from the supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.
There are two issues I would raise on Rappler. The first one is on its ownership structure. Rappler’s registration papers in the Philippines and Indonesia submitted to IFCN do not provide details on who are the owners and how much was the capital. There’s no information on who are responsible for the infusion of capital, and how much, that enabled Rappler to expand its operations, at first in the Philippines and later in Indonesia. This oversight can be addressed by the news organization for transparency’s sake. However it cannot be proven whether or not the presence of non-journalist owners and investors of Rappler have compromised its fact-checking project. The second one is that Rappler does not explicitly state its fact-checking methodology that includes claims to fact check and sources to provide evidence as well as explicitly invite the audience to participate in its fact-checking project/section. This could be easily addressed by Rappler because fact-checking is part of its regular news and work flow. Moreover Rappler is an early adopter of fact-checking as a journalistic form/genre.