Posted in Behind the News

What to know about ‘Not Real News’

, by Lauren Easton

As part of our ongoing efforts to fact-check claims in suspected false news stories, AP has been publishing weekly roundups of some of the most popular untrue headlines of the week, debunking them and making clear the facts.

The weekly fixture, “Not Real News: A look at what didn’t happen this week,” launched in May.

Nerve Center manager Amy Westfeldt, who oversees the effort, explained its origins and how the roundup fits into AP’s greater fact-checking mission.

Why did AP start the “Not Real News” roundup?

We first began publishing AP Fact Checks of suspected false stories in December, when we began an initiative with Facebook to debunk widely shared stories that were not true. “Not Real News” is an outgrowth of that. We thought a tight 5-things list would be accessible and shareable for our customers and the public, and draw good attention to our core mission of fact-based journalism.

We also found that some of the “fake news” fact checks sometimes did not require as much nuance and explanation as our regular AP Fact Checks. “Not Real News” provides us a vehicle to dispense quickly with false stories that are trafficking widely.

Each installment notes a variety of false stories. How does AP decide which ones to include?

We have several ways to track popular but false stories — in-house metrics tools we use, like NewsWhip, among them. We look at the stories Facebook users are flagging or sharing widely. Sometimes a bureau will point out an item that bubbled up on a reporter’s beat and we’ll find them that way. Trending news reporter Patrick Mairs is my key partner in identifying and debunking these stories and we get help from our colleagues around the globe.

When we select which stories to include, we are looking for pieces that are “off the news” — we frequently find false stories that are riffing off the top story of the day. A Charlottesville item is in today’s fixture. We are looking at pieces that might be easily misconstrued, or easily believed or questioned, so we can provide the service of debunking them.

The stories have to meet all AP standards for fact-checking. We don’t fact-check opinion. Hyperpartisan sites, particularly since the presidential election, publish many stories that are challenged on social media, but often produce opinionated versions of the day’s headlines.

How does “Not Real News” fit into AP’s greater fact-checking efforts?

This is another innovation to address the evolving platforms where people are consuming fact checks and news overall. We are always going to be in the business of fact checks. We are simply looking for new opportunities and delivery methods to reach our diverse customer base. “Not Real News” specifically addresses the false stories that purport to be news. And as a part of our work with Facebook, it is a key way we hopefully deter the proliferation of these stories on social networks like Facebook.

Read today’s installment of Not Real News.