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Tuesday 27 November 2018

Genuine newspapers check their facts ...except when they don't.

We're told the difference between fake news and genuine newspapers is that they check their facts, thats that why we should pay for news but it doesn't seem that they do check their facts.

In a Times Ireland article (behind a paywall) Dublin city ‘Scrooges’ scrap lights ceremony Ellen Coyne, Senior Ireland reporter November 22 2018

"Darryl O’Callaghan, a Labour councillor"
Except Darryl O'Callaghan was not a member of the Labour party at the time having resigned on October 11th, the Labour party website still had him listed as Local Area Representative but he was not elected a Councillor at the last local elections. How did they get a quote from him and not find out he wasn't a member of the Labour party anymore.

I tweeted this out and emailed their feedback/corrections email address the article was corrected later.

The Editor of the Times Ireland Richard Oakley responded, and I asked him was the article fact-checked?

"Most" things are checked but not all...

I can understand one person making a mistake which is why you have a second person check, apparently they have 5 people involved in the process but it seems nobody double checks the facts.

I asked do the subs ring people and asked did they have their factchecking process written down somewhere so the public or even their subscribers, as I am, could read it. He said no.

"Spotting" seems very loose, its seems like they are 'winging it' rather then having a a firm process in place to prevent mistakes.

The editor of the Times Ireland keeps dismissing this as a minor mistake, all facts are worth checking. They got a quote from him, how did they get the quote and not check his position in the Labour Party with him?
The editor mentions the speed if the process, if you don't have the time to check something, don't run it, this article hardly needed to be published immediately.
There is a lot information on the internet about sub-editing and rewriting articles but not so much on the process of fact-checking within sub-editing.

So genuine newspapers check their facts, except when they don't!

Accuracy checklists

NPR on its accuracy - checklists
CUNY Fact Checking, Verification and accuracy checklists
Detroit Free Press accuracy checklists
Proofreaders' Marks for Electronic Text

From Richard Oakley's reference to "codes in noted copy" I searched for copy/sub editing marks and from the above links I learned that the one mark related to factchecking is called CQ (Cadit quaestio) "the question (quaestio) falls (cadit)", i.e. there no doubt its correct, and that sub-editors generally accept this. I don't know if there are further subsidiary notes added to that, eg checked org website, spoke to person? [which they apparently did and got a quote but somehow the article stated they were in a party they had just left and they were Councillor when they had been only a local area rep].

Is what lacking here a triple check of calling the party? ie don't presume, factcheck.

Surely you need a second pairs of eyes, a second brain on something to be really certain.