Our Methodology

How PesaCheck works

The following information is based on the learning that the PesaCheck team has experienced with a view to improving operations.

Structure

PesaCheck operates with a clear workflow system which indicates the roles, responsibilities and deadlines that each team member needs to adhere to.

The head of this structure is the managing editor, who signs off on all the stories before publication and commissions any accompanying graphics and visualizations to accompany the story.

Additionally, the managing editor will commission and sign off on social media posts on PesaCheck platforms every time a story is published, as well as on a case by case basis whenever there is an issue of interest that touches on a particular fact-check.

Team

The PesaCheck team is composed of fellows in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Each of these fellows is responsible for identifying relevant stories and sources to fact-check.

PesaCheck team members contribute to the pool of stories to be fact-checked, and once the stories are done, they are published to the PesaCheck site. We also commission fact-checks from journalists within the Code for Africa network, as well as individuals working with our partner organizations.

More information on the team can be found here.

Sources

There are a wide variety of potential content sources to find and assess statements to check. They include but are not limited to stories published on mainstream media, public debates, ads on TV, radio and online, talk-shows on TV and radio, official political party and campaign websites, YouTube and social media videos, social media posts by public figures, parliamentary sessions, committee hearings, government meetings and proceedings, and media appearances by public figures.

We also collect requests from the public on claims that need checking using this online form.

As a requirement for all our fact-checks, we include multiple sources of information and references. This helps to underline the veracity of our arguments. In addition, the sources are referenced accurately. To do this, we use sourceAFRICA, a repository of actionable documents.

Through sourceAFRICA, the PesaCheck team can:

  • Archive the source documents for future reference
  • Annotate the specific page where the information is sourced from. As newspapers do not use complete references like academic papers, hyperlinks would serve to highlight the references. It also allows the readers an opportunity to review the document in its entirety.

Every source document that is referenced in a story is saved on sourceAFRICA in order to preserve a copy and link directly to the information being referenced.

All sources and facts to be checked will be recorded on Check, where fact-check requests crowdsourced from the public and from social media will be managed and updated as they progress.

We put a premium on story ideas generated by members of the public, as this indicates that the issue is of great public importance, and it is a good source of information that may not yet be in the public eye.

To underline the credibility of PesaCheck stories, we ensure that our sources are quoted comprehensively — full name and designation.

Any information from sources that seek anonymity is treated as background information only. Such information must be corroborated by evidence.

PesaCheck is committed to disclosing to its readers the sources of the information in its stories to the maximum possible extent. We want to make our reporting as transparent to the readers as possible so they may know how and where we got our information. Transparency is honest and fair, two values we cherish.

Identifying facts to be checked

Not all statements are created equal. Here are some criteria that we use to help establish a hierarchy of important statements to fact-check:

  1. Amounts that can be checked and verified: 
    Example: Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie promises Ksh18bn for orphans, disabled kids
  2. What statements that are causing the most buzz? 
    Example: Who really controls Ward Development Funds?
  3. Statements that have gone viral on social media or are being repeated often by public officials: 
    Example: Will Kenya Olympic champs get Sh1bn bonus
  4. Statements that can be proved or are well supported by facts: Is the statement a prediction, subjective? 
    Example: Is Kenya increasing funding to the health sector?
  5. Have the numbers been manipulated to support a partisan message?
    Examples: Uhuru’s maternity care numbers exaggerated; Has Kiambu collected Ksh4.7bn in revenue?

Fact-checking guidelines

We have three main rules guiding our fact-checking process:

  • Golden Rule 1: Only one fact per fact-check. We limit each fact check to one statement only, or a set of statements that are clearly related.
  • Golden Rule 2: Check every fact check. We do our best to corroborate the fact/verification. For example, rather than using a newspaper story about the budget; we use the budget document to fact check a statement.
  • Golden Rule 3: Draw a conclusion based on the facts. After all the research, corroboration and interviews, we assign a label to the fact check: True, Partially True, Untrue, Partially Untrue, or Inconclusive.

We use this checklist to write and prepare our fact-checks:

  1. Is the statement being checked included verbatim?
  2. Is there an explainer for why this statement was selected for checking?
  3. Has the category of deception been identified?
  4. Have all the sources for the fact being checked been identified? 
    Any source documents used in the fact check need to be annotated and uploaded to sourceAfrica, including any additional useful data identified in the process of fact-checking.
  5. Has the the reason for the labeling the statement True, Not True, etc been indicated?
  6. Is the label (true, not true etc) mentioned briefly at the top of the story, and in more detail at the end of the story?
  7. Have any links to the sources and the statement being checked been included in the body of the article?

Final editing checklist

We use the following final editing checklist based in part on the PolitiFact checklist:

1. Is the claim open to interpretation? Is there another way to read the claim?

2. Is the rating fair and consistent with other fact checks?

3. Is the rating supported by all available facts? Do questions linger?

Social media policy

Social media is a key tool that we use to distribute our fact-checks. The following are guidelines that we use to keep our social media consistent and harmonised.

  1. We don’t post anything that we cannot stand by.
  2. All posts follow a consistent structure — a question statement (what), a source (who) and a link to the story (where to find more). 
    Example : FACT CHECK:Did @Kandie_Phyllis misspeak about pledging Sh18bn for disabled kids? @PesaCheck finds out: p://bit.ly/2aIxrqa
  3. Each fact check needs a standard hashtag, for example #PesaCheck
  4. All reactions and comments are looked into, especially when they lead to potential follow-up stories that may arise out of the fact check.

Corrections policy

Transparency is a core value for PesaCheck, and we strive for accurate and comprehensive fact-checking. We all make mistakes sometimes, and while every error is a weakness, some errors are inevitable, and we are fully open to correcting them promptly in whatever material we publish on our platforms.

When we run a correction, clarification or editor’s note, our goal is to tell readers, as clearly and quickly as possible, what was wrong and what is correct. Anyone should be able to understand how and why a mistake has been corrected.

It is necessary to use a correction, clarification or editor’s note to inform readers whenever we correct a significant mistake.

Updates are used to reflect important new information or clarifications; corrections are for mistakes.

Clarification

When the content is factually correct but the language used to explain the facts is not as clear or detailed as it should be, the post will be rewritten and a clarification added to the story. A clarification can also be used to note that we initially failed to seek a comment or response that has since been added to the story.

Editor’s notes

A correction that calls into question the entire substance of an article, raises a significant ethical matter or addresses whether an article did not meet our standards, may require an Editor’s Note and be followed by an explanation of what is at issue.

Therefore:

  1. When an error is brought to our attention, we will indicate in comments that it has been corrected.
  2. Any erroneous information published on our social platforms will be corrected on any and all platforms it was published on.
  3. We do not attribute blame to individuals, but we may note that an error was the result of incorrect information from a trusted source.

Take-down (unpublish) requests

As a matter of editorial policy, we do not grant take-down requests. If the subject claims that the story was inaccurate, we are prepared to investigate and, if necessary, publish a correction.

Stories will be updated if we checked a claim and drew a conclusion based on facts available at the time, but there is significant new information that will warrant a change in that conclusion.

In short, our response will be to consider whether further action is warranted, but not to remove the article as though it had never been published.

Right of reply

Persons who are the subject of a fact-check get a reasonable opportunity to respond to us.

Attribution

We strive to be truthful about the source of our information. Facts and quotations in a story that were not produced by our own reporting need an attribution. Attribution of material from other media must be total. Plagiarism is not permitted.

We place a premium value on original reporting.

The correction policy was sourced in part from Buzzfeed and The Washington Post.

For further clarification, contact us on [email protected]. Find our contact information here as well.

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