The media nonprofit Vera Files continues to adhere to the suggested criteria of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). Since the last assessment in 2017, the inclusion of fact-checking for the local Filipino language is an innovation. Vera Files is perhaps the first media outfit in the Philippines to do Filipino fact-checking. (Context here is that almost all of the printed news publications in Filipino are daily tabloids that balance news, entertainment, sports and gossip articles).
From the last assessment, I observed that Vera Files also did fact-checking on the news audiences and social media influencers who are against President Rodrigo Duterte. This balances what some audiences in the Philippines largely perceive: fact-checking stories are predominantly anti-Duterte. If more of these fact-checking efforts for the anti-Duterte camp are done side-by-side with the pro-Duterte supporters, this will showcase the truest editorial independence of Vera Files. This also comes as Facebook tagged Vera Files as a fact-checking organization for the social media giant.
With the recent issues hampering some news media outfits in the Philippines (ownership, alleged "partisanship" that is then linked to market leanings and ownership), Filipino audiences may be looking for some media outfits that are willing to disclose their ownership structure and their finances. Ideally, doing such is like what The New York Times does when it releases annual financial reports on its company website. In general, unless the Philippine company is listed in the Philippine Stock Market, financial reports are not usually publicly released on their official websites.
If Vera Files is willing and able, I strongly suggest that it becomes one of the pioneer news media outfits in the Philippines that publicly disseminates the official financial statements and (perhaps) ownership information. This is something its board of trustees can discuss. But for the sake of not just editorial independence but also transparency (which journalists usually ask of state actors in its stories), Vera Files can set the example. Whether the earnings are small or huge, financial and organizational transparency by Vera Files will make the organization more credible in its journalism.
The year 2018 has been a very challenging year for the Philippine press. The year ain't even over. Ownership structures have been publicly castigated side-by-side with reporting biases. Actual court cases have been filed. Political forces continue to flood social media with influencers spreading misinformation and discrediting journalists. Meanwhile, journalists are still being killed across the country.
But to the credit of Filipino journalists and news outfits, they still persist in reporting the news and try to display balance, accuracy and fairness.
The wish is that in this challenging year for Philippine journalism, Vera Files and its fact-checking efforts will display editorial independence, organizational transparency and a stronger watchdog disposition (overlooking pro- and anti-government forces and audiences). Doing all these within the remaining months of the year will be a symbolic triumph for Vera Files and for overall Philippine journalism.