Organization: USA TODAY
Applicant: Mizell Stewart III
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Edits made by the organization after this assessment
IFCN Staff wrote:
As requested, we have added additional fact checks to the aggregation page. The changes include adding direct links to our methodology and corrections policy as requested and arranging all fact checks in chronological order. We will continue to increase our cadence of fact checks as our program grows. We have added “Fact Check” to the top navigation on our News front.
The Gannett page for SEC filings: http://ir.newmediainv.com/Docs
We have added the guidelines below to this column: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2020/01/13/why-usa-today-fact-checks-people-and-statements-news/4435111002/
Our application inadvertently omitted our corrections policy, which follows:
Correcting & clarifying errors
When an error occurs, our news organization has an ethical obligation to correct the error
promptly and minimize any potential harm. However, before promising or making changes, we
should acknowledge concerns and investigate the claims.
▪ When a concern about accuracy is received, a determination must first be made that an
error was made. The reporter and the appropriate editor/platform manager/producer
should confirm that a mistake was made, and the correction request should be reviewed by
a senior news official not involved in the original coverage. If the error appears
egregious and/or if an outside attorney has contacted the newspaper about the error,
then the news organization should contact its attorney or the Law Department and the
Network standards editor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
▪ In instances when an error is reported in shared content from another Network
newsroom, the originating outlet should determine whether a mistake was made.
Information about the mistake and the proposed correction should be shared across
the Network and, if appropriate, the Network standards editor and legal counsel should
▪ If the facts are right but the context of information might lead users to draw the wrong
conclusion, a clarification would be more appropriate rather than a correction.
▪ Corrections or clarifications should be worded in a manner that does not repeat the
misinformation or go into detail about how the mistake occurred. At the same time, the
correction should contain enough context so that audience members understand exactly
what is being corrected. Example: A Network newsroom publishes a cover story about
fatherhood and says John Doe is a divorced father. He’s married. Instead of: A cover
story Tuesday about fatherhood said John Doe is divorced. He is married. (Repeats the
error.) Or: A cover story Tuesday about fatherhood should have said John Doe is
married. (Difficult to tell what’s being corrected. Did we say John Doe is widowed or
divorced? Did we imply he had a child out of wedlock by not giving his marital status?)
Say: A cover story Tuesday about fatherhood misstated John Doe’s marital status. He is
married. (Identifies what we got wrong and what we should have said instead.)
▪ There are rare instances when it is appropriate to explain how an error occurred.
Those would include cases in which incorrect information was provided to the news
organization, or if it is necessary to protect the reputation of a reporter who was not
responsible for the error.
▪ Corrections and clarifications should be easy to find in the paper and online. We anchor
them in the print edition and append to the top of stories online. Placement exceptions can
be made to avoid confusing the audience.
▪ For online content, we label explanations “Corrections & clarifications: Xxxxx“ when
setting the record straight, and we reserve such labeling as “Editor’s note: Xxxx” for
other explanations of news coverage.
▪ We consider how content is shared, such as video and social media, when setting the
▪ Errors on social media should be corrected promptly. In some cases, it may be
necessary to delete a post.
▪ For video, correction/clarification language should be included in the video chatter
and a correction slate included at the end of the footage with that explanation. The
clarification needs to be in both places because sometimes the video appears without its
chatter in syndication or promotion on other sites.
▪ Any decision to delete a video or audio feed should be approved by a senior
▪ In cases where a video/audio has been modified or deleted but there is no story text,
we still owe readers an explanation for the change. Establishing a corrections log on
the website provides a newsroom window for greater transparency when addressing
▪ In the event a mistake occurs on video/audio produced by a content partner, we
should alert the partner of the error before making a final decision on whether to
correct the record. Errors of common knowledge can be addressed immediately but
we should alert the partner.
▪ For online photos, the appended correction/clarification information should follow the
corrected text and should be italicized and placed in parentheses. Example: Randy
Jackson and Ryan Seacrest are American Idol holdovers. Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and
Keith Urban are the newcomers. (An earlier version of this photo information
misidentified one of the show's new judges.)
▪ If the foundation of the story is erroneous, or if the inaccuracy resulted from an
egregious ethical violation, it may be best to correct the error with another story
admitting the error. Any such case requires consultation with the Law Department, as
does any case in which a legal vulnerability appears to exist or a lawyer’s letter of
complaint has been received. This should be handled in consultation with a senior newsroom
▪ We do not remove archived material or "unpublish" content from our digital
platforms, except in rare instances when simply correcting/clarifying information may not
be enough. Any decision to take down a story should come only after a broader
conversation with a top news leader in the newsroom. Some situations may involve
consultation with the Law Department
Conclusion and recommendations
Michael Wagner wrote:
USA Today is an excellent national newspaper with a large number of local affiliates. They are currently partially compliant or noncompliant on too many items to recommend acceptance. I believe that with *extensive* edits they can be certified. First, USA Today needs to conduct more regular fact-checks, as they largely have in January of 2020 but have not done up until then. Second, USA Today should create a separate tab on their website that is solely dedicated to Fact Check. Third, USA Today should either clearly link to the Gannett pages that describe their earnings and SEC filings or create similar pages on their own site. Fourth, USA Today should develop and publish a clear fact-checking methodology describing their fact-checking process. That process should also describe for readers what is and is not checkable from USA Today's point of view. Fifth, USA Today needs to list the bios of the staff reporters doing fact checks. They should also link to the bios of reporters at local affiliates who do fact checks. Sixth, USA Today should develop a clear corrections policy, rather than only listing all of their corrections.