The Independent is launching a section called In Fact to debunk fake news
The Independent is to tackle the problem of fake news head on by launching a new section called 'In Fact' which will debunk spurious stories.
Editor Christian Broughton said the "online channel" would go live next month and would "very vocally" confront news of a dubious nature.
"When we call out fake news very overtly it does very well," he said at Advertising Week Europe, singling out a piece it ran by Andrew Griffin, headlined 'Donald Trump fact check: Almost every big claim he made in his speech to Congress was false', as an example of the type of content it will soon produce more of.
Christian Broughton, editor of the Independent
"He just went through and fact checked the whole thing. It got massive distribution online. It was reassuring [following Facebook's links to fake news] to see how Facebook can deliver the counter message. If you call it out, if you do a debunker rather than just an encyclopedia-style footnote correction, it gets that big sharing community worked up."
Broughton said the introduction of In Fact was designed to counter what he perceived to be the biggest danger of fake news, which is "that it becomes normalised, and you don't see that any clearer than in the figure of Donald Trump".
And he insisted that old fashioned, carefully-sourced journalism still had a place in a modern media landscape which some would contest prizes traffic over truth: "Scoops work. Old fashioned scoops really work for digital reach. It’s a really reassuring thing – people think the only thing that works for numbers in digital is the kind of cheap wins."
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As an example of the serious journalism that can pull in serious visitor numbers, Broughton cited defence correspondent Kim Sengupta's revealing reporting on Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who authored the explosive Donald Trump Russia dossier. "Kim’s story was massive for us," he said. "There’s something of the old world that still works in the new world."
But Sengupta, who was also on the panel, spelled out just how challenging it will be for real journalism to fend off fake news.
"It’s not something new," Sengupta said. "The reason it’s become so prevalent and corrosive now is because of mass communication [making it] so accessible.
"It’s getting through to more people now and people find fake news more palatable because facts are very often not very exciting, not very sexy, whereas with fake news as we now know from the Trump campaign and others around the UK, it galvanises people. Fake news is a far better way of rabble rousing than facts."
Last month, Channel 4 News ran a 'Fake News Week to draw the public's attention to the problem, and it has also recently been advertising a vacancy in its Fact Check team. The BBC, meanwhile, is setting up a 'Reality Check' team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news.
Some 300 news organisations the world over, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Die Zeit, are also now members of the First Draft Partnership, which was launched last September to improve verification of online news.