Posted in Behind the News

Getting the facts right

, by John Daniszewski

Accuracy in news reporting always has been AP’s top priority. The reliability of news has become a hot topic in recent months with the proliferation of so many so-called “fake news” stories on social media platforms.

In a memo sent to AP staff on Friday, Social Media Editor Eric Carvin outlined some steps AP is taking to use the long-established AP Fact Check as our main tool to call out false reports on the internet, as well as to hold newsmakers to standards of accuracy in their statements:

Getting the facts right is nothing new at AP -- it’s always been core to our mission and our identity. Building on that tradition -- and in light of the questionable claims and fake news stories that have flooded the web in recent months -- we want to recommit to our fact-checking efforts all around AP. This includes producing stories that knock down false reports that are getting traction online, as well as a specific collaboration with Facebook to flag problematic stories that was announced on Thursday. Here’s what you need to know, especially if you’re creating, filing or promoting fact-check items. Headlines, tweets, posts: Let’s be consistent about how we label and refer to these stories. Whether we’re knocking down a fake story or fact-checking a politician, start the headlines with “AP Fact Check:” and use the #APFactCheck hashtag on tweets and Facebook posts that promote it. The language we use: Whenever possible, we want to emphasize specifics rather than generalizations or labels. Let's say what we know to be true and what is false, based on our reporting. So, in headlines and copy, be clear about what we have learned and how we have learned it. Use the word "fake" sparingly and only in cases where we can prove not only falsehood but intent. And accusing someone of "lies" or "lying" is even more problematic and should not be used except in the most extreme circumstances that must be approved by senior AP managers in New York. Better to use phrasing such as "is not true" or "it didn't happen," or that something that was “reported as X is, in fact, Y.” AP News hub: We’ll have an “AP Fact Check” hub on the AP News platform that will be home to all items that fall into this umbrella. That way, we can easily share a direct link to our entire collection of fact-check items. Fact-checking on Facebook: AP is one of a handful of news and fact-checking organizations that have agreed to work with Facebook to flag false content to Facebook users. If we choose to debunk any of these and write a knock-down story, we can flag the bad item and supply the link to our own story. Then, many Facebook users will see a “disputed by AP” flag whenever they see that item, along with a link to our story. The Trending Desk will take the lead on this work, though the expertise of journalists around AP will be tapped.