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.
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
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.