Quick Check-List for Credibility of News Content

2- A Quick Checklist for News Content Credibility:

As a first step in applying above-mentioned standards to examine news content, members of AKEED’s monitoring team refer to an initial checklist to verify the credibility of news.

The Headline:

1- Is the headline clear?

2- Is the headline related to the content?

3- Does the headline imply what the content is about?

4- Is the headline informative of the content?

5- Is the headline biased to a particular side?

6- Does the headline promote hatred?

Sources:

1- Does the material include a source or sources?

2- Are the sources known or anonymous?

3- Are they primary or secondary sources?

4- To what extent is the source or sources knowledgeable? Is it in their capacity to proclaim that?

5- To what extent do journalists and the public trust these sources?

6- Does the source give information or does it give its own perspective?

7- Are all involved parties represented in the material, or have some been ignored? To what extent would this marginalization affect the credibility of the material?

Content Material:

1- The material does not refer to how the information was obtained:

The person relaying the news has to refer to how s/he obtained it, whether through a press conference, an interview, an announcement, press release, telephone, reporting through television announcements, a journalistic website or a news agency.

2- The material contains false, erroneous or incomplete information:

A journalist should be accurate in naming people as well as in giving facts, information and dates to readers. Any mistake in this information, whether intentional or not, is considered a violation of the credibility of the news.

3- The material is incorrect:

If there is a refutation through a video, a photo, an official source or the person concerned in the news, then the news is considered incorrect unless the journalist has conclusive evidence that the information is right beyond the shadow of a doubt.

4- The material contains inaccurate photos, or photos that have been manipulated. Manipulating photos is prohibited, and so is deceiving the public through posting old photos without pointing out that they are archival. Otherwise, it is considered a direct violation that detracts from the credibility of the news. However, this can be overridden if the photo does not affect the public.

5- The video goes against or conflicts with the text of the material. A journalist is prohibited from using videos that conflict with the content of the material.

6- The material is old but was published as new:

If old material about a person or an institution is re-published as new material with the goal of leading public opinion in a specific direction, it is considered misleading.

7- The material contains inaccurate figures, data or statistics:

Accuracy in numbers and other information has to be sought, especially while writing on issues regarding population, deaths and disasters. The source of these numbers has to be mentioned in the material.  

Approximation terms such as around, less than, approximately and more than can all be used if the journalist does not have specific numbers.

Journalists should also provide details regarding the numbers they offered. For example, they should not mix up the numbers of the wounded with those of the dead, or political parties and coalitions etc.

8- The material does not answer the “what” question:

News or reports should show what really happened, or what was the incident that occurred. This is the first component of the news. News should focus on mentioning the primary incident that is related to the public. What decides the importance of an event is its proximity to the public, its effect on the lives of people and the changes it might effect. This is why protocol news has to be avoided. For example, news writers do not start the news with “X received Y”, but with “ X and Y agreed on this or that”, and another paragraph can report on how that agreement took place during a reception or a meeting between the two parties etc.

9- The material does not answer the “how” question:

High credibility news requires that the reader is offered a clear explanation of how the action happened. This is measured by finding an answer to the question of “how?” A journalist may sometimes not be able to answer that question for the lack of adequate information or because the nature of the news itself does not require answering the question of “how?” This is why this standard is left to the evaluation of specialists in the field.

10- The material does not answer the “why” question:

High credibility journalistic material requires presenting the public with a clear explanation of the reason why the action happened. This is measured by finding an answer to the question of “why?”

Just as in the case of “how”, a journalist may not have adequate information that would enable him/ her to offer an explanation for the event. This is why this standard is left to a specialist’s evaluation who can assess the need for the material to have an answer to that question.

11- The material does not answer the “where” question:

Journalistic material that abides by professional principles has to refer to the place where the news or event happened. The nature of the news defines the required detail in specifying the place. In some news, the name of the country or the city is enough, while some other news might require the name of the neighborhood or even the street. Specialized experts are the ones who decide on that; they objectively evaluate the influence of describing or specifying the place on the credibility of the news.  

12- The material does not answer the “when” question:

If the news does not answer the “when” question, then it fails to clarify the timing of the action, and this detracts from its credibility. In this case too, it is left to the specialist to evaluate how specifically the timing needs to be identified. In some news it might be enough to mention the day, while some other news may require specifying the hour.

13- The news does not answer the “who” question:

News should state “who” committed the action, whether it is a person, a political party, an institution or a country. It should also clarify who was acted upon, in cases where such information is required.  

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