The Washington Post Fact Checker

Organization: The Washington Post Fact Checker
Applicant: Glenn Kessler
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Conclusion and recommendations
on 08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

Michael Wagner wrote:

The Washington Post Fact Checker is a rigorous, transparent, non-partisan, fair and clearly written site. In my view, the Fact Checker clearly complies with the IFCN principles, even listing them at the bottom of fact checks.

The site conducts regular fact checks of those in or seeking political power. The Fact Checker clearly articulates its ratings system, sources, corrections policy, ownership and editorial structure and contact information. I recommend that the site provide more detailed biographies of all the reporters for the site so that the audience can have a more comprehensive picture of who is conducting the fact checks produced the Washington Post Fact Checker.

on 08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

Michael Wagner recommended Accept


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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The landing page of The Fact Checker makes that clear: www.washingtonpost.com/factchecker 

There is also an extensive "about the fact checker" page, some of which was updated in response to last year's assessment: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/about-the-fact-checker/ 

Key section: "Since 2013, The Washington Post has been owned by Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, as a personal investment via Nash Holdings LLC. The Fact Checker is part of the national-news section of The Post, which is managed separately from the editorial and opinion section of The Post."

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

Both compliance elements are complete. The Fact Checker site is part of the Washington Post website, something that is immediately clear upon navigating to the site. 


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The site clearly notes that it operates independently from the newspaper’s editorial page. The Fact Checker publishes detailed, transparent fact checks on a regular basis. It is easy to tell when the fact checks were published.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/02/02/kevin-mccarthys-stint-as-a-small-business-entrepreneur/?utm_term=.1a7fc5d74df0 
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/02/01/fact-checking-the-democratic-responses-to-the-state-of-the-union-speech/?utm_term=.409a7e3a5e45 
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/30/fact-checking-the-2018-state-of-the-union-address/?utm_term=.1ffd74e11993 
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/20/president-trump-made-2140-false-or-misleading-claims-in-his-first-year/?utm_term=.6c6339e392f6 
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/12/is-the-trump-tax-cut-good-or-bad-for-the-middle-class/?utm_term=.e8310541d993 
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/22/president-trumps-claim-that-nearly-3-in-4-convicted-of-terrorism-are-foreign-born/?utm_term=.c4b088bc9fcb 
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/09/what-you-need-to-know-about-christopher-steele-the-fbi-and-the-dossier/?utm_term=.8d9aba6a9ee6 
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/12/15/the-biggest-pinocchios-of-2017/?utm_term=.f8e3ecedf24f 
  9. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/12/12/pelosis-claim-the-house-gop-is-inviting-violent-criminals-to-carry-concealed-weapons/?utm_term=.561b4478aaf8 
  10. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/12/06/does-the-senate-tax-bill-really-offer-a-tax-break-for-private-jets-as-key-democrats-claim/?utm_term=.f88b0362bf6e

Our goals and standards are described in the "About The Fact Checker" page: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/about-the-fact-checker/?utm_term=.c83168ea8aad We strive to apply The Pinocchio Test consistently and fairly, frequently referring back to previous fact checks to make sure we rate similar types of claims in the same manner. We seek items to fact check based on whether the claim is newsworthy and would help to advance better understanding of complex policy issues. Over time, we aim to fact check an similar number of claims from each party, though we do not engage in a "counting" exercise that would result in a lowering of the standard of what we fact check.

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The Fact Checker publishes on a wide variety of issues. The focus is on those in power and the claims they make; the site clearly articulates the kinds of claims that are most likely to receive scrutiny from the Fact Checker. While President Trump receives a great deal of attention from the Fact Checker, the concentration is appropriate given his place in the political system and the volume of checkable claims he chooses to make. The writing is clear, direct and transparent with respect to linking to sources used to help the Fact Checker draw conclusions for the site’s rating system. In fact, the site is even willing to check itself as it did with a March 1 fact check about a tweet from Glenn Kessler’s response to President Trump’s complaint about a President Obama-directed cash payment to Iran.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/about-the-fact-checker/ 

Key section: "Consistent with Washington Post policy, no one working on The Fact Checker may engage in partisan political activity or make contributions to candidates or advocacy organizations."

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The site notes, "Consistent with Washington Post policy, no one working on The Fact Checker may engage in partisan political activity or make contributions to candidates or advocacy organizations."


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

We provide as many links as possible to all sources and documents used in assembling the fact check. Often, we will embed documents within the fact check so readers have quick access to the material. We have never received a complaint about lack of transparency and in fact are often complimented on how much material we provide to readers.

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The Fact Checker is an industry exemplar when it comes to transparency. The Fact Checker links to primary and secondary sources. The writing clearly articulates unlinked evidence when it is used to rate the claims checked. The fact checkers regularly use videos, links, quotes and a variety of alternative story forms such as graphics to provide evidence to their readers.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

As stated on the about The Fact Checker page, The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. 

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The site clearly notes that the Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, noting, “Since 2013, The Washington Post has been owned by Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, as a personal investment via Nash Holdings LLC. The Fact Checker is part of the national-news section of The Post, which is managed separately from the editorial and opinion section of The Post.” The site does not note the political views of Bezos.


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

A bio of the author appears at the bottom of each fact check. The About The Fact Checker provides extensive detail on Glenn Kessler:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/about-the-fact-checker/?utm_term=.c83168ea8aad

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

There is an easy to find, lengthy and clear biography of Glenn Kessler, but I could not find detailed biographies of other journalists who produce fact checks for the Fact Checker.


done 4b marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

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

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

There is a contact form at the bottom of each fact check. The bio of the authors also provides email and twitter contacts, as does the About The Fact Checker page

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

There is contact information (email and Twitter) for Fact Checker reporters. Indeed, it is very easy to contact reporters of the Fact Checker.


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The Fact Checker clearly articulates the Pinocchio test that is applied to claims being fact checked. The general categories are easy to understand and are regularly referenced in the body of fact checks.


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

At the bottom of each fact check, there is a link to this form: https://washingtonpost.wufoo.com/forms/fact-check-this/

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

Kessler is very clear about the purpose of the site - to check the factual claims made by political leaders, interest groups and the news media. The site notes that some claims may well be true, but the site is clear that the orientation of the Fact Checker is such that it is less likely to check claims that are simple and truthful. As the Fact Checker notes about the Geppetto Checkmark (true) category, “We tend to reserve this for claims that are unexpectedly true, so it is not awarded very often.


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

The corrections policy is clearly articulated on the About page.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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

Michael Wagner Assessor
08-Mar-2017 (3 years ago)

One example, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/03/16/a-coal-miners-plight-paying-for-public-broadcasting-is-less-than-a-penny-of-his-taxes/?utm_term=.b490a0eb2de4, of a correction I examined referenced the correction right after the headline and then clearly bracketed text to note where the correction was made in the story. This is one of the better executions of a corrections policy I have seen. 

A second example did the job, but less well. It clearly noted a correction (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/12/12/pelosis-claim-the-house-gop-is-inviting-violent-criminals-to-carry-concealed-weapons/?utm_term=.f8ffa17fb895), but it did not provide a prominent marker of a correction at the beginning of the story. It did, once again, clearly mark with brackets where and why a correction was needed.


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.