TheJournal.ie FactCheck

Organization: TheJournal.ie FactCheck
Applicant: Susan Daly (Editor, TheJournal.ie)
Assessor: Margot Susca
Conclusion and recommendations
on 20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)

Margot Susca wrote:

In many ways, TheJournal.ie's fact check arm could set the standard for how other online factcheck sites could and should communicate mission and offering information about its role in public life. It has a clear mission statement about its fact checking done and posted online as well as accessible and public-facing pages that detail how readers can get involved, how it runs fact checks, how it issues corrections, and who on its staff conducts fact checks. It has a clear "reader's guide" that is both informative and offers the basics. Extending its mission into the social media space, its Twitter page @TJ_FactCheckMy offers the public other opportunities to engage, writing: "We fact-check Ireland's public debate. Heard something dodgy? Let us know⎜A project of @thejournal_ie"


My only "criticism" (and I use this term lightly) is that while I do see the policy on non-partisanship clearly articulated in the application, I did not see it linked from the home page of its website. This seems minor and not worth holding up its application.  

on 20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)

Margot Susca 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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

TheJournal.ie is a full participating member of the Press Council of Ireland, registered as a company as Journal Media Ltd in Ireland, Registration #483623. The FactCheck project began in February 2016, and in September 2016 became a signatory to the International Fact-checking Network’s Code of Principles. It has since been re-verified twice and has never lapsed its membership, or failed to fulfill critieria, of the IFCN. 
The Editor of the FactCheck project has recently been co-opted onto the Ethics Committee of the Press Council of Ireland.

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)



done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

The archive of factchecking work can be found at this URL: http://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck/news

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

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/irish-slavery-myth-4897066-Nov2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/factfind-irish-government-houses-built-4918423-Dec2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/noel-grealish-money-sent-from-ireland-to-nigeria-4889805-Nov2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-brexit-customs-northern-ireland-4866733-Oct2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/nuala-oloan-factcheck-4862441-Oct2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-irish-citizenship-northern-ireland-citizens-4855066-Oct2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-home-builds-4559654-Mar2019/ (follow-up https://www.thejournal.ie/factfind-irish-government-houses-built-4918423-Dec2019/)

https://www.thejournal.ie/sex-education-bill-masturbation-dail-4637774-May2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/national-lottery-factcheck-4517047-Mar2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-donald-tusk-4479666-Feb2019/

https://www.thejournal.ie/michael-d-higgins-dog-grooming-factcheck-4288527-Oct2018/

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

I appreciate the applicant's explanation here of how the factchecks have moved into the regular newsroom allowing greater breadth of subjects covered. Indeed, a wide variety of subjects are covered. 


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

TheJournal.ie was founded in late 2010 with a stated mission to provide unbiased, independent news that informed users without agenda. Our motto 'read, share and shape the news' - evident on our homepage and repeated on our apps and mobile pages - is a public declaration that we are answerable to users of our service. This is supported by tech features such as 'submit tip' and 'make a correction' buttons on our apps which allows users to contact the newsroom and journalists directly.

Our hiring policy excludes members of political parties or lobbying groups from working in our newsroom and our editorial induction manual explicitly states that journalists must leave all personal sympathies at the door. The manual states that all information in a story must be verified independently with no information published elsewhere - online, etc - taken as established fact. We also have a policy of hyperlinking to sources (studies, academic papers etc) where we have verified these as independent and wholly trustworthy, for the purpose of transparency. All journalists are required to annotate sources and preserve interview notes for every story, and file them daily in a dated Google doc that can be accessed by a senior editor, should we need to review any aspect of a story we publish. These notes are preserved for at least a year.

Our journalists are also excluded from accepting "any fees, commissions or other inducements of any kind whatsoever from any third party which could create a conflict of interest or otherwise jeopardise or leave open to question the impartial discharge of the duties of your position".

We have a further stated policy in our editorial manual on journalists' use of both Journal Media social platforms and guidelines for use of personal social media accounts that are public facing, eg, "Are you displaying a bias that could diminish your authority to report on a particular subject or person?"

With Brexit and the impact on Ireland a topic which has thrown up a number of important factchecks for us this year (see Section 2a for examples), the editorial leads at TheJournal.ie have presented workshops to all reporters to establish core facts about key issues, including the definition of the backstop solution to the North/South Irish border, citizenship and recent court rulings and so on, so that the team has a solid and consistent knowledge base with which to approach their work with impartiality.

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

I see the policy here clearly articulated in the application, but I did not see it linked from the home page of its website. 


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

FactCheck’s Reader’s Guide (http://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-thejournal-ie-readers-guide-2987611-Sep2016/), published in September 2016 and linked at the end of every subsequent fact check, contains sections providing details on our approach to finding and selecting claims to fact-check, as well as our policies and procedures on gathering and publishing evidence. Reviewing a handful of fact checks from the archives (http://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck/news/) will show that we make heavy use of clear and complete citation and attribution of sources of evidence, as well as hyperlinks, and that we regularly include downloadable spreadsheets containing data relevant to that fact check.

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

TheJournal.ie is part of Journal Media Ltd (http://www.thejournal.ie/about-us/) which comprises four publications and and is wholly owned by online entrepreneurs Eamonn and Brian Fallon. Funding for Journal Media is provided by a capital investment by the Fallon brothers, who founded an Irish online property listings website called Daft.ie in 1997. The ownership of Journal Media is confirmed by documents filed at the Companies Registration Office in Ireland and can be accessed here: (https://cro.ie/) or can be supplied by us if needed. Journal Media also earns revenue from advertising on Journal Media sites - our advertising policy is publicly available here: http://www.thejournal.ie/advertising-policy/

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

TheJournal.ie FactCheck has moved from employing a sole factchecker to rolling out the project to the whole newsroom.

The project is directed by TheJournal.ie managing editor Susan Daly and deputy editor Christine Bohan. Biographies of each reporter and editor can be seen here (updated with our newest addition to the factchecking team in May 2019): http://www.thejournal.ie/meet-the-team-thejournal-ie-factcheck-bios-4267874-Oct2018/

This link is included at the end of every article and the article can be seen in our FactCheck vertical. Each reporter's byline and links to their previous work also appear beneath each factcheck for which they are responsible. 

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

Users can contact TheJournal.ie in a number of different ways - on the app 'send a tip' or 'make a correction' buttons mentioned above in this application, but also through the email 'news@thejournal.ie' or other sections here: http://www.thejournal.ie/contact/ Users can also tweet at us @thejournal_ie or DM us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thejournal.ie/ To contact TheJournal.ie's FactCheck specifically, users can email their suggestions and corrections to factcheck@thejournal.ie or tweet or DM the project at @TJ_FactCheck - our reader guide outlines all of those options: http://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-thejournal-ie-readers-guide-2987611-Sep2016/

As a full member of the Irish Press Council, we also subscribe to their complaint process where users can make a submission if they believe we have failed to uphold any principle in the Council's Code of Practice: http://presscouncil.ie/contact-us/

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

Our Reader’s guide (http://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-thejournal-ie-readers-guide-2987611-Sep2016/) contains sections giving details of our methodology. You can read it here.

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

We especially encourage readers to suggest fact checks, through a dedicated email address (factcheck@thejournal.ie), and a Twitter account (@TJ_FactCheck). We invite readers to submit claims in every published factcheck, and through Twitter “call-outs” timed to coincide with primetime television and radio panel shows, as well as on an ad hoc basis, surrounding particular special events or developments.

In addition, where a factcheck originated with a reader request, we mention this fact in the article, as well as (provided they have given consent) the name and locality of that reader. Our Reader’s Guide contains details on how readers can suggest fact checks, as well as some advice on the most suitable types of claims, what to avoid, and so on.

We are hoping to establish a specific email channel for reader suggestions around an expected general election in Ireland in early 2019, with a guidance article to be published on TheJournal.ie main news site, outlining the areas in which readers might have queries (eg, on policy promise documents). This project is to capitalise on the success and value to readers of a similar outreach we conducted during the 2018 abortion legislation referendum in Ireland.

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

Our corrections policy, which also includes a list of corrections, is publicly available here (http://www.thejournal.ie/thejournal-ie-factcheck-corrections-policy-2987705-Sep2016/?jrnl_af=1), and is linked to at the end of each individual fact check. It is updated whenever a correction or update is made, and includes the date on which each correction is made. Each correction is also noted within the fact check in question. 

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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

TheJournal.ie FactCheck
09-Dec-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

As an organisation, not just our fact-checking unit, we are very open to reader feedback, through our social media channels, tips email, comments section under each article and direct access to authors through their emails at the end of each piece.

So when we received strong feedback about an ‘unproven’ verdict on one of three claims we fact-checked in this article on Donald Trump versus Congresswoman Ilhan Omar - https://www.thejournal.ie/ilhan-omar-donald-trump-claims-4731316-Jul2019/ - we took another look at the evidence and admitted that the verdict should have been ‘false’. We posted this update at the top of the claim, and it has also been recorded on our corrections page.

A second example shows our commitment to working with the best possible information at time of publication, as per IFCN standards. In this piece - https://www.thejournal.ie/factcheck-luas-green-line-closure-metrolink-4563457-Mar2019/ - which factchecked claims that a major commuter artery in Ireland’s capital city would have been closed to facilitate construction of a new metrolink, we published with a ‘true’ verdict, in line with the latest reports available to us. Shortly after publication, the National Transport Authority of Ireland - prompted, we believe, by our factcheck, put out a more recent report, carrying data which meant the verdict would change to ‘mostly true’. Although this was only a small change, we felt it important to update it for readers because this article is likely to be reshared over the next year as the commuter issues within the Greater Dublin Area continue to be of some concern to those living there.

Again, this clarification is carried prominently at the top of our article.

Margot Susca Assessor
20-Dec-2019 (5 months ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.