A first fact-check is certainly not easy, but it has guided these three journalism students to new insights. They have investigated a claim that states that the EU is hiring companies that supply weapons to conflict zones in the Middle East for border control. Which is definitely not some light reading.
Thabo: “Watch out for editorial mistakes”
We live in a wonderful time. We have all information in the palm of our hand, anytime and anywhere. But we also live in a time when anyone can easily spread information, even if that information is false. The engine of truth therefore needs regular lubrication, and the oil that serves this purpose is called ‘fact-checking’. In class ‘2 Journalism A’, I was introduced to the tools and methods for successful fact checking. I accomplished my part of the assignment through trial and error.
My first assignment as a fact checker confirmed what I had already experienced many times: as a journalist you have to be assertive or sometimes even pushy. To find out the truth, you have to call, email and call again. Fortunately, this went reasonably smoothly with my two most important contacts. Representative of the NGO ‘Stop Arms Trade’ Mark Akkerman immediately picked up the phone to confirm his claim.
The only thing “wrong” with the claim was that he hadn’t said one specific word: the arms manufacturer “Glock” wasn’t part of his claim. After this, I contacted Kasper Goethals, the journalist of the article in which the claim was made, and he told me that the claim was completely correct. However, there was an editorial mistake where the quote was merged with research the journalist had done himself. This error occurred during final editing.
Martha: “Fact checking? Not for me!”
For a long time I didn’t understand the importance of fact checking. I had never thought about the impact of false facts until the presidency of Donald Trump. Facts should be one hundred per cent factual, but apparently not everyone agrees. The more nonsense Donald Trump spouted, the more interesting fact checking sounded.
The last few weeks, I have been able to see for myself how this works, and although it can be very fascinating, it is at least as frustrating. Not everyone wants to cooperate, some even ignore all your questions as if they feel they can pick up COVID-19 by answering the phone.
I am glad that I have been able to apply some fact-checking techniques, and I will always use them when writing an article. Nevertheless, I think a career in the deep and focused world of “checking facts” is not for me.
Ezra: “Not a far-fetched topic”
Fact checking, from how I see it, is more than just checking whether the facts are correct or not. It is also one of the few ways to ensure that criticism is sincere. In times of “alternative facts” and “fake news”, this is absolutely vital.
By researching a subject like ours, you also learn a lot about the subject itself. So, I found this a very interesting assignment. Normally, European border policy and arms exports are far-fetched topics. But now that I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, it feels like I’ve been researching them for years.”
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Ezra Cnaepkens, Martha Van den Eede, Thabo Xulu, AP University College Antwerp, Belgium
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