RMIT ABC Fact Check

Organization: RMIT ABC Fact Check
Applicant: Russell Skelton
Assessor: Henk van Ess
Edits made by the organization after this assessment

IFCN Staff wrote:

These are the responses made to the assessment from the applicant

1b. I am happy to adjust the statement that we publish 'at least' once a week. Henk has only looked at the RMIT ABC Fact Check website. We also publish on twitter, facebook, Youtube and on ABC 24 TV. In recent months we have also been contributing analysis to the ABC News online. I suggest we adjust the wording to say something like: RMIT ABC Fact Check publishes across ABC online news platforms and on twitter, facebook, youtube and on ABC 24 TV.

RMIT ABC Fact check is staffed by experienced journalists, researchers and fact checkers. This is set out in the staff profiles published on the website. It is incorrect to say the unit is staffed by researchers and interns drawn only from RMIT students and alumni.

Only one senior researcher, Sushi Das, is an RMIT alumni and she is an author, senior editor and award winning reporter with over 20 years experience at the The Age newspaper.

RMIT ABC Fact Check accepts interns from all universities (including Hong Kong and Indonesia) as well as from RMIT.

Two RMIT communications graduates are employed in junior research roles, one full-time, one part-time.

Since its relaunch fact check has not been accused of left wing bias by conservatives in the same way that the ABC more generally has. The former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has publicly acknowledged the integrity of our work, so too has Minister for Aged Care who recently tabled a fact check in the Parliament. Both sides of politics regularly retweet our findings. I reject the label of 'left wing' which the Murdoch media (who have campaigned strenuously against public broadcasting) regularly use to describe journalists working for the ABC.

4a. The agreement between RMIT and the ABC is a confidential business document that I have shared it with the IFCN for the purposes of accreditation. It is not a publicly available document. As both institutions are publicly funded by taxpayers there is no mystery for the public or the people or organisation we check about the sources of funding for RMIT ABC Fact Check. We do not accept private donations of any kind.

4b. We will update the staff list to include our two junior researchers, Natasha Grivas, our part-time researcher and Ellen McCutchan.

Lauren O'Keefe was an intern with fact check, she was with the unit for two weeks. It is highly unusual for interns to receive by-lines. Lauren was the exception, she is a mature age student with experience in reporting.

As interns are neither full-time or paid, it is our policy not to list them on the website.

The people listed on Linkedin as having working at RMIT ABC or ABC Fact Check are former interns and employees no longer employed or involved with the unit.

ALL employed staff are listed on the website. Gordon Farrer, the RMIT lecturer who teaches fact checking, is not involved in the day to day operations of the unit and plays no administrative role.

He is therefore not listed.

6b.

We only add an editors note when the actual copy is changed. Unfortunately fact checks are automatically given an updated tag when the metadata changes in our archiving process.

Matt Martino, fact check's online editor has provided the following explanation:

When changes are made to the background metadata, with no changes made to the copy of the article, the website will show the article as having been updated at a new time after the first published date, despite no changes being made to the copy.

Unfortunately, there is no way around this for Fact Check. A quirk of the ABC system means that we must make metadata changes in the system on a periodical basis to ensure that our fact checks show up properly in our archive. Thus, almost every single one of our fact checks will have an updated date which is different from the first published date. Where we have made changes to the copy, we note those changes in an editor’s note.


Conclusion and recommendations
on 19-Oct-2018 (1 year ago)

Henk van Ess wrote:

Solid fact checking. Applicant doesn't fully comply to the criterium "at least one report a week over the previous three months" if the online archive is correct.  Not all authors have a bio, including people who did additional research or full research. Most of the updates are not explained.  The confidential data ABC Fact Check provided IFCN shows how much money ABC is paying RMIT, but is not publicly available anywhere.

on 19-Oct-2018 (1 year ago)

Henk van Ess 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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Russell Skelton, Director of RMIT ABC Fact Check. My names appears on our official ABC website. http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Relaunched in March 2017, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) in Melbourne teamed up with the national Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The assembled RMIT ABC Fact Check team is a tenant in the new RMIT Media Precinct. RMIT has Fact Check Researchers and interns drawn from RMIT journalism students and alumni. Final editorial control for the site has ABC. Currently ABC lost both its chairman and managing director "over concerns of government interference in its editorial independence" according to https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/27/australia/abc-news-australia-management-intl/index.html Conservative politicians often accuse it of "left-wing bias and seek to cut its budget". 


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

According to their own statement "ABC Fact Check determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate"

The team concentrates on economy, immigration, health, environment, educations and political people and parties. It also does ad checks. See https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/browse/  

They do a fact check almost every week and in some weeks even more. The don't fully comply to the criterium  "at least one report a week over the previous three months" because there were no fact checks between Aug 3 and Aug 11 & Aug 24 and Sep 3 according to https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/factchecks/



done 1b marked as Partially compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Tone and length of each factcheck differs because of the different contributors and broad range of topics that can differ in depth. Productions of the old team (2013 - 2016) and the new team (March 2107 - now) are distinguishable because they have a publication date. The new team gave over 20 topics "In the Red" (=not true) , 11 fact checks resulted in "True/Correct/ Fair Call" and 25 Fact Checks ended in "In Between" and got verdicts like overstated, overreach, jumping the gun, there is more to the story, simplistic, spin and misleading. 


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check prohibits staff from belonging to political parties and lobby groups. Any potential conflict of interest must be declared. It is a condition of the employment. In addition, all editorial employees are bound by the ABC charter of independence and professional code conduct. 

For a guide to ABC editorial policies and guidelines:

http://about.abc.net.au/how-the-abc-is-run/what-guides-us/abc-editorial-standards/editorial-policies/

Breaches of the code can lead to dismissal. 


Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Among ABC journalists who declared a voting intention, 41.2 per cent would vote for the Greens, 32.4 per cent for Labor, and 14.7 per cent for the Coalition, see https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-13/fact-check3a-abc-greens-voters/9931782 according to figures from 2013

In their Fact Checks, The Australian Labor Party got all three verdicts (in the red, in between and true) as did The Coalition and The Greens (when we include the work of the old team too)

The ten people claiming to work / have worked for RMIT ABC Fact , see https://www.linkedin.com/search/results/all/?keywords=RMIT%20ABC%20Fact%20Check have no trace of political activities in there bio's


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

All sources are declared at the end of each fact check. Experts are only quoted on the record and are identified by name, title and institution. No background sources are quoted or referred to. Links are provided to all documentation used to evaluate a fact check and reach a verdict. This policy is apparent to any consumer of our fact checks. Where fact checks rely on data only (exceptionally rare) all datasets are identified and links provided.   

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The fact checks are made by different people and slightly differ in depth or tone, but almost every article includes statistics, links to sources and explain who said what. A list of sources is included. On July 3, 2018, applicant claims "there are no official statistics for the past 12 months" in Fact check: "Were 400 white South African farmers murdered last year?" https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-05/fact-check-were-400-white-south-african-farmers-murdered-year/9591724 but immediately follow with "The most recent police statistics show that 74 people were murdered on farms in the year to March 2017." That police statistics are not official statistics is not fully explained besides the generic problem that no murder is filed away as "farm murder" . Besides this minor criticism the fact checking seems solid.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check is a partnership between RMIT University and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Both publicly owned institutions funds and resource the RMIT Fact Check. The ABC operates independently of government under the act of Parliament based on the same model as the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  There are no other sources of finance. The partnership document is attached below. The confidential document attached below sets out the financial arrangements and the editorial obligations and standards. The version you have is unsigned because the signed document is classified. It is a full and accurate versions of the signed document. 

Files Attached
insert_drive_file ABC Research Service... (97 KB)
Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Part of the agreement between ABC and RMIT is confidential and therefore the standalone organisation RMIT doesn't publish an overview of spending and media house ABC doesn't either. The confidential data ABC Fact Check provided IFCN shows how much money ABC is paying RMIT, but is not publicly available anywhere.


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

This link 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/

provides all the information you require:

1. Our brief

2. our methodology (in the form of an animated explainer)

3. Detailed CV's of the editorial staff including titles.   

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

A researcher who assisted is not featured in any bio. Additional research by Lauren O'Keefe in https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-13/fact-check3a-abc-greens-voters/9931782 doesn't hyperlink to her profile and she is not in http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/  Maybe interns and journalism students don't get full credit in a separate bio?


Also Natasha Grivas has no bio but is still featured as main writer of https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-15/fact-check-honey-bee-pollination/10365750


done 4b marked as Partially compliant by Henk van Ess.

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

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Here is the link on our website where people can get in touch, lodge objections or make a complaint. 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/contact/

Each 

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Indeed https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/contact/ allows the audience to respond, including complaints.


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago
http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/


The above link takes you to our methodology where it is explained in full. 

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The information in https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/contact/ is less detailed than in https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/application/public/rmit-abc-fact-check/62C8DAE9-EA1A-5C20-6FEC-077247B6E0D5 but does meet the criterium that they explained how they work.


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

People ask us to check claims on both Facebook and twitter and do so regularly. They can also fill out this form:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/contact/


Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Indeed https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/contact/ allows the audience to respond, including complaints.


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check is bound by its partnership agreement(see previous link to document) which commits RMIT ABC Fact Check to all ABC editorial policies including its corrections and complaints process. Please follow the link below for a details.

https://edpols.abc.net.au/policies/3-corrections-and-clarifications/


 

Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

There is no separate  public corrections policy for this initiative, but a "generic" policy https://edpols.abc.net.au/policies/3-corrections-and-clarifications/


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Henk van Ess.

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

RMIT ABC Fact Check
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

RMIT ABC has never had to change a verdict on a fact check. There have been a number of complaints filed through official channels with the independent complaints process. There have been four complaints in the past 12 months that we have been required to handle detailed responses to. No of the complaints have been up held or appealed. As this process is confidential between the the complainant and the ABC we don't have access to the paper trail. If required I could obtain a statement from ABC complaints confirming the above.   This policy it set out in the link below.  

See link:  https://edpols.abc.net.au/guidance/complaints-handling/


Henk van Ess Assessor
08-Oct-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The reason why and how articles are updated, is not given. Fact check: Does a Toyota Corolla emit less than a Tesla? is posted March 6, 2018 and updated July 13, 2018 but no explanation is given what the update is and why. Other examples are https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-28/fact-check-did-the-tasmanian-liberals-cut-210m-from-health/9483130  (posted Feb 28, 2018, updated Jul 12, 2018) and see other examples here https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/recent/?page=3


done 6b marked as Partially compliant by Henk van Ess.