fact checking

In session eight of the Sinelizwi Citizen Journalism Programme, candidates learned about the importance of verifying and fact checking information. We also covered how to find out what verifiable information is and where to fact check.

In a world increasingly filled with fake news, this is an invaluable skill to have when you are hoping to become a journalist. Nowadays fact checking can be seen as a necessary 21st century skill that hopefully we should all be versed in.

Journalists spend a lot of time immersed in information, doing research in pursuit of a story. During this process they systematically examine resources and materials in order to determine the validity or authenticity of information. The purpose of research is not simply to find facts and statistics, but to uncover reliable data.

How do I decide what to fact check?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this ‘fact’ spreading?
  • Is it believable?
  • Could it do harm?

Where do I fact check?

  • Go to the primary source when possible. Using secondary sources like articles can perpetuate errors.
  • Use your local library or Google. Just be very wary of online sources – just because someone put it on the internet does not make it true.
  • Contact an expert – but check out their credentials first.
  • Find a stakeholder – someone who’s interested in the same thing you are.

What Do I Check?

  • Proper names
  • Place names
  • References to time, distance, date, season
  • Physical descriptions
  • References to the gender of anyone described
  • Quotations (and facts within quotes)
  • Any argument or narrative that depends on fact
  • Figures
  • Identified sources
  • Context
  • Links to originals
  • Identifiable visuals

Right after this important session, the aspiring citizen journos were assigned with task five of the Sinelizwi Citizen Journalism Programme.