The Whistle

Organization: The Whistle
Applicant: Michal Sella
Assessor: Mark Lavie
Edits made by the organization after this assessment

IFCN Staff wrote:

For criterion 2b: We added a brief explanation of our policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political advocacy organizations.

For criterion 4a) We listed all of our donors and explained how the organization's funds are allocated.

For criterion 4b) We added the students, mentioned they are volunteers and do only media monitoring, and added a new staff member.

* Here is the link to the transparency part in our website. https://www.thewhistle.co.il/transparency


Conclusion and recommendations
on 29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Mark Lavie wrote:

The Whistle” should be accepted as a member by IFCN with some changes.

Positive:

The Hebrew-language operation has been in operation for only three months and appears to be the only agency of its kind in the country. It is properly registered with the Israeli government as an NGO. So far its work has been of high standards in fairness and impartiality. It grades statements of public figures as to accuracy, and clearly explains how and why it reaches its conclusions, which appear to be accurate so far. It examines statements from all segments of the Israeli political spectrum, grading individual statements in four categories: correct, mostly correct, mostly false, and false. Based on replies, it is considering adding another category: “Misleading.”

It has a clear and approachable method for readers to complain, demand changes and comment. Its application claims that so far it has made no mistakes, which, considering its short time in existence is not surprising.

Negative:

Besides the fact that it has been operating for only three months, there are transparency issues:

The website gives a pie chart that represents its funding, listing 16% from the New Israel Fund, 10% from the Moriah Fund and 74% from “private donors.” No further breakdown is offered. The two funds are known, somewhat unfairly, for supporting leftist causes, which include rights for Israeli Arabs, Ethiopian Jews, human rights and women’s rights, actively opposing government policy in these areas. This leaves “The Whistle” open to charges of liberal bias which, so far, would be unfounded. Israeli law does not require disclosure of the identity of private donors, but you might have a different standard there, especially when the proportion is so high. There is no disclosure either of total funding or how the funds are spent.

“The Whistle” has been posting investigations every day or two, but it lists only a small staff, one of whom is “in charge of investigations,” and one other is called “investigator.” If there are other people involved in the work, they are not listed. Also, they are allowed to be members of political parties, but are banned from direct political activity. In Israel, joining a political party may be required for voting in primary elections but not in a general election, so joining a party and paying its annual dues is a public sign of identification with its policies. If any of the staff listed on the website are members of political parties, this is not disclosed.

On its website, “The Whistle” claims to adhere to the guidelines and principles of IFCN. That may be accurate, but the entry might be taken to imply that “The Whistle” is already a member, so unless you have approved that reference, it appears out of place.

on 29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Mark Lavie 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.

The Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

You can find evidence that The Whistle is a legally registered NGO in our site's transparency section (https://www.thewhistle.co.il/transparency). You will find there a scanned copy of our formal NGO permit (in Hebrew). 

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Independent NGO properly registered


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)
Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Publishes individual reviews several times a week


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)
  1. Our regular spot on Channel 2 morning news show – (2 checks) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3qnzf37aZM 
  2. Our spot on the national broadcast channel – (3 checks) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh9q4XjuUiw&t=2s 
  3. Naftali Bennett – The Minister of Education - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/Z909OAByqO 
  4. Tzipi Livni - The Former Foreign Minister - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/47yD8gAyGP 
  5. Avi Gabbay - The current leader of the Israeli Labor Party - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/1l0L1amWva 
  6. Tzipi Hotovely -Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/Z8yXDb8y42 
  7. Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu - The Prime Minister of Israel - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/QXx46eNW78 
  8. Michal Biran – Labor MK - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/a5xQzrD0qA 
  9. Yisrael Meir Lau – The Former Chief Rabbi of Israel - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/rVxwgBGxmA 
  10. Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu - https://www.thewhistle.co.il/feed/7RVxB8wWZk

The Whistle has a comprehensive method for fact checking which reduces biases to the minimum. Our desk examines public statements made by key figures in the public and political spheres; elected officials, leaders, opinion makers and senior civil servants; from all parts of the Israeli political spectrum. The scale of the Israeli media allows us to scan most of it every day. Through a comprehensive, rapid and balanced examination of public statements, The Whistle seeks to lead a more credible, accurate and factual public discourse in Israel, as it aspires to influence the news cycle in real-time.

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Evaluates public statements from all sides


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

We added a brief explanation of our policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political advocacy organizations.

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Our staff members can be registered as party members but they cannot have direct professional involvement in political campaigns or advocacy organizations. Our staff is diverse, not only because we believe every workplace should emphasize diversity as a key value, but also because we believe it is essential for a fact-checking organization in a polarized environment to have a diverse staff in order to detect and minimize natural political biases.

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

No evidence of support for party or candidate but checkers can be party members


done 2b marked as Partially compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

We, at The Whistle, believe that our role is to provide our readers with accessible facts. Although we would like them to trust us and use our factchecks as reliable sources, we believe we should also allow them to get to the facts themselves. That is why we believe our sources should not only be transparent but easily accessible as well. All of our sources are shown in the ‘Sources’ section of every item. They are each linked either to a web source or to a PDF file so the readers can easily access them. In long documents we mark the sections we used or provide specific page numbers. When using an interview with an expert, we always use accurate quotes and mention the date of the interview. We save and document every interview (audio/script version) so we are able to share them on demand. Our research is based on reliable and open sources, and we will never publish a factcheck without having credible and accessible sources.

This information can be found in the “about us” section on our website: https://www.thewhistle.co.il/aboutUs

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Each entry lists original statement and sources of fact-checking


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

We listed all of our donors and explained how the organization's funds are allocated.

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https://www.thewhistle.co.il/transparency

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Has only a pie chart listing two foundations and “76 percent private donations” with no further details, no expenditures


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

We added the students, mentioned they are volunteers and do only media monitoring, and added a new staff member.

Here is the link to the transparency part in our website. https://www.thewhistle.co.il/transparency

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https://www.thewhistle.co.il/team

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

list appears too short to cover all the work


done 4b marked as Partially compliant by Mark Lavie.

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

The Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)
Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Dedicated link for that


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

https://www.thewhistle.co.il/aboutUs (and the section:"how we grade")

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Dedicated link to methodology


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)
Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Feeling their way—still defining their categories


done 5b marked as Partially compliant by Mark Lavie.

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 Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)
Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Invites comments



done 6a marked as Partially compliant by Mark Lavie.

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

The Whistle
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

We didn't have any corrections made yet, but our readers approach us every day through our website, Twitter account and Facebook page. We answer all of them and explain our editorial choices (,if necessary). Factchecking is a new concept in Israel, and that is why lots of the questions we get deal with the discrepancy between what the speaker actually said/ wrote and what they intended. We think this is a crucial element of our work and we answer our readers by explaining that we do not check people, we check their statements. We believe politicians can make an effort and actually say what they mean so the Israeli public will get the accurate facts.

The second kind of correction requests we get from our readers regards our rating system - although we didn't change any grade yet, we take them very seriously. We usually explain our choices to the readers by referring them to our published rating system. We are currently thinking about adding another grade: “misleading”, after considering few of our readers' comments.

Mark Lavie Assessor
29-Jan-2018 (10 months ago)

Claims no mistakes!


done 6b marked as Partially compliant by Mark Lavie.