As mentioned in our reverification process last year, we’ve been delighted to roll out our factchecking project to the wider newsroom - one consequence of this has been to increase our bandwith on the breadth of subjects that we can factcheck with some expertise when a particular reporter has experience or qualifications in a specific area, eg, the science sector.
We continue to factcheck political figures and parties (you will see even from the sample below, examples of factchecks on the leading government party, Fine Gael, and larger opposition parties.) We have received submissions from parties on both sides of the parliamentary divide this year to factcheck someone of an opposing political viewpoint, so we consider that a good indication that there is no perception that anyone feels immune to being factchecked by our project.
I have included mention of a factcheck late last year (which I believe came after the last assessment of our project by IFCN) which tackled a claim about the incumbent President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. This is important because he would be a particularly beloved figure in Irish culture but our approach was that there was a presidential election in train and he had to be scrutinised as closely as any other candidate.
You will notice that a larger proportion this year of our factchecks are concerned with Brexit, particularly the impact of it on the island of Ireland.
On Brexit, it was particularly important for us to retain independence and impartiality given the political sensitivities on the island of Ireland around the issue of the UK and its influence on our affairs, north and south. So you will see examples of factchecks which look at claims made by both Irish and British sources, and a particular focus on debunking fast-spreading claims on social media about the impact of Brexit on everyday life here.
In order to ensure consistency, FactCheck uses a prescribed set of verdicts, whose details and requirements are clearly defined and publicly available (http://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-thejournal-ie-readers-guide-2987611-Sep2016/).
As well as fact-checks and factfinds, we began a new focus on explainers, some of which we fit under our FactCheck label as they were a more appropriate way to tackle several smaller pieces of misinformation that pop up around a single subject, rather than one single claim. We launched a new podcast, called The Explainer, to the same aim, which features a factchecker along with a source expert, and our news editor as presenter, to explore the facts on a single issue per weekly episode. The Explainer has just been listed by Apple as one of its best listens for 2019.
This selection of links is to show the focus on Brexit and major national issues such as homelessness and housing policy, as well as rising disinformation around migrants to Ireland, particularly on social media.
https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-home-builds-4559654-Mar2019/ (follow-up https://www.thejournal.ie/factfind-irish-government-houses-built-4918423-Dec2019/)