description of activity

Adapted from Journalism, fake news & disinformation: handbook for journalism education and training, Ireton, Cherilyn , Posetti, Julie

Divide your group in smaller groups and give each group one of the media examples (articles, interviews transcriptions, posts, press releases, etc)

Ask them to highlight:

  • in yellow the sentences they consider opinion.
  • In blue the sentences that are facts
  • In orange the sentences in between.

Ask the groups to present their conclusions to the group. Is there more fact, opinion or in between information in their example. Why do they think is that (what is the motivation behind it)?

Break the participants into groups. Have each group choose one “green” claim from the ones listed above to fact-check (or choose from a list of your own).

Ask the groups to search for evidence that backs up or refutes the findings. Before they do so, encourage them to evaluate the sources they find according to the following parameters.

  • Proximity: How close is the evidence to the phenomenon? E.g. A news organisation reporting the latest unemployment statistics is usually less proximate to the data — and therefore less valuable — than the national statistical body that actually measures employment figures.
  • Expertise: What credentials indicate the quality of the producer of the evidence? E.g. The author of a book has a PhD in the topic and is highly cited in his/her field.
  • Rigour: How was the evidence collected? E.g. Data on violence against women is often collected by survey. This can make generalisations invalid, and international comparisons difficult given that women’s willingness to respond and conceptualisation of sexual harassment may vary including from country to country. This is not to diminish the seriousness of violence against women, but to advocate for rigour to underpin specific claims being made.
  • Transparency: What do you know about the evidence? E.g. A scientific study has published all the data on which it bases its conclusions online for other researchers to scrutinise.
  • Reliability: Is there a track record to evaluate? E.g. Transparency International has been publishing the Corruption Perceptions Index for more than 20 years. This has given plenty of time to experts to spot its limitations.
  • Conflict of interest: Is a source’s personal or private interest also served by the evidence being what it is? E.g. A study on the alleged health benefits of pasta was partly conducted and funded by a major pasta-maker.

Trainers may want to print the following table and have participants use it to evaluate each source. Discuss, what the most reliable sources are, and how the selection of sources and bias can influence content production. How can they avoid from opinion to infiltrate information?  What sources do they consider are the most accurate and verifiable? What are the main difficulties when it comes to accessing these sources?

Poor Medium Strong
Proximity
Expertise
Rigour
Transparency
Reliability
Conflict of Interest

 ASSESSING THE LEARNING OUTCOMES

The aim of the activity is that learners understand the difference between opinion and fact, and to be aware of how opinion and bias can challenge the process of content production as well as of content consumption.

Assessment should take place during the activity. Trainers should observe and note whether learners understand the importance of identifying factual information. How important is to verify the information? How can they avoid from opinion to infiltrate information?  What sources do they consider are the most accurate and verifiable? What are the main difficulties when it comes to accessing these sources?

information on the activity

This exercise aims to make learners aware of how basic fact checking works by working over a text, finding the difference between opinion and facts in the media discourse and checking for the authenticity and accuracy of the information included in the media product.

Learners will be able to

apply existing journalistic research skills regarding verification of information and sources with regard to reporting on migrants, ethnic/religious minorities, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, women, youth and senior citizens

INFRASTRUCTURE

A room with chairs and tables

EQUIPMENT

Laptops, tablets or smart mobile phones for the research

MATERIALS

Examples of articles, posts or press release covering issues around minorities

Three different colour highlighters per group (yellow, orange and blue)

DURATION

45-60 minutes depending on the size of the group

RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS

4 to 12

TIPS FOR TRAINERS

It is a good Idea to offer the participants during or at the end of the session the checklist for information verification

Generally speaking, fact-checking is composed of three phases:

  1. Finding fact-checkable claims by scouring through legislative records, media outlets and social media. This process includes determining which major public claims (a) can be fact-checked and (b) ought to be fact-checked.
  2. Finding the facts by looking for the best available evidence regarding the claim at hand.
  3. Correcting the record by evaluating the claim in light of the evidence, usually on a scale of truthfulness.

What gets in the way of facts

Before diving into the practical aspects of fact-checking, learners need to be aware of its limitations — and their own.

Some commentators have declared that we have entered a “post-truth” or “post-fact” era. These terms featured in headlines all over the world in 2016 and were selected as the “Word of the Year” by, respectively, the Oxford English Dictionary and the Society for the German Language. The argument made by the “post-truthers” is that politics and the media have become so polarised and tribal that citizens flat-out reject any facts that they disagree with.