Poor premise for bashing Rappler, Vera Files

By: JASON BAGUIA April 17,2018 - 09:04 PM


The present dispensation’s reaction to the independent selection of Vera Files and Rappler as fact-checkers of content being circulated on Facebook is gauge of commitment to truth and healthy public discourse.

The reaction indicates only a flimsy commitment.

Rappler and Vera Files, both founded by veteran, award-winning journalists were dismissed as poor choices for fact-checking because where they are situated in the political spectrum is allegedly as clear as day.

Such a reaction confounds the issue. Even if we pretend that the two media outfits are partisan, there is a gap that would nevertheless separate their political affiliation from their respectfulness towards facts. Partisanship does not denote deceptiveness.

Furthermore, had Malacañang’s reaction team taken time to find out the background of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) that accredited Rappler and Vera Files as fact-checkers, they would not have rashly slammed the two organizations.

The IFCN is a unit of the Poynter Institute, a premier global organization dedicated to the craft of journalism and journalism training. Partners in the network commit themselves to five commitments: first, to nonpartisanship and fairness; second, to transparency of sources; third, to transparency of funding and organization; fourth, to transparency of methodology and fifth, to open and honest corrections.

According to the IFCN, the commitments in the code of principles were finalized on Sept. 15, 2016. Following this the network opened an application and vetting process on Jan. 17, 2017. Since 2017, at least 49 organizations from Denmark to Indonesia, from Argentina to Nepal, from Bosnia to Brazil have applied to the IFCN to systematically verify them as fact-checkers.

I encourage those who have not yet heard of the IFCN to visit their website. There, anyone can see that the commitments of affiliates are not lip service.

Visitors are free to download the application submitted by any fact-checking group and the corresponding assessment issued by IFCN.

Let us skim through a set of records.

The records on Vera Files are dated Sept. 8, 2017. According to its application, its fact-checking initiative is known as Vera Files fact-check. You would be familiar with its products if you have been following the group’s Facebook page where memes titled “This Week in Fake News” are regularly released.

The IFCN records are not just a database. They actually illustrate the things that spell the difference between credible, high-integrity media groups and machineries of disinformation.

Unlike the sites promoted by trolldom’s subjects, Vera Files has satisfied the IFCN criteria of having a known point person (the journalist and professor Yvonne Chua) and being clear about its goals as a news organization and fact-checker. There is a live link that states what its fact-checking initiative is all about.

Unlike the sites promoted by trolldom’s subjects, Vera Files has satisfied the criteria of non-partisanship and fairness as verified by IFCN using a sample of 10 Vera Files stories that visitors can access through links supplied.

Unlike the sites promoted by trolldom’s subjects, Vera Files has a statement of nonpartisanship to which the public can hold them accountable, to wit: “Vera Files is a nonstock, nonprofit media organization that values its journalistic autonomy. We don’t take money from politicians, political parties or partisan groups. The trustees and staff members have to stay strictly nonpartisan and aren’t allowed political affiliations.They don’t take on memberships, projects and activities that will compromise their independence and result in conflict of interest situations, whether real or perceived. Vera Files also adheres to the Philippine Journalist’s Code of Ethics which has a lengthy provision on nonpartisanship of journalists during elections.”

Vera Files has satisfied the IFCN’s criterion for transparency of sources. Unlike the sites promoted by trolldom’s subjects, “it provides links to statements, press, releases, transcripts, and videos of speeches and news conferences where the time code is specified.”

Where applicable, Vera Files stories carry links to relevant sources after their conclusion.

Vera Files has also disclosed its funding sources in the IFCN application, be they international organizations that provide grants or funders who finance special reporting projects.

If you would like to see how Vera Files as well as Rappler satisfied all the criteria and were assessed, please visit the website of the IFCN.

“This code of principles is for organizations that regularly publish nonpartisan reports on the accuracy of statements by public figures, major institutions, and other widely circulated claims of interest to society,” the IFCN states, referring to the code that Vera Files and Rappler must uphold.

“It is the result of consultations among fact-checkers from around the world and offers conscientious practitioners principles to aspire to in their everyday work.”

In view of what I have written, critics cannot just brush the two fact-checking organizations as partisan, especially not when the use of “partisan” in their criticism is aimed at denigrating reporting or fact-checking that casts a harsh, negative light on certain parties or politicians.

Such criticism is poppycock worthy of those who call “fake news” every journalistic story by which in a fit of victim syndrome they decide to be offended or of those who cannot stomach facing a mirror that exposes to them their own gross fakery.

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TAGS: bashing, files, poor, premise, Rappler, vera

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