DUBAWA adheres to a process of scrupulous and diligent selection, research, writing, and editing for its fact-checking exercise. To ensure consistency across fact checks, while refraining from limiting individual creativity, we have developed a standard methodology.
Choose the claim(s)
First, our panel of editorial experts examines suggestions for fact-checking based on reader/citizen suggestions or the choices by team members or even from our Editorial Trust Board.
For the general public, you can send a claim that you’re unsure of, about a wide range of issues, to our email account: email@example.com, tweet @dubawaNG or send us a direct message on Twitter. Please provide us with as much information as possible about the claim you want to be checked, the person or organisation who made it, and where you saw, read or heard the claim being made. If you can, include links. Suggestions with this information are far more likely to end up as fact checks.
Also important is that the decision to fact check a particular claim depends on the quality of the claim. Whenever we get claims, we check to see if the statement is actually checkable, that is, are there facts sufficient enough to support or contest the claim? We’d try to ask the following questions as well: Is the topic significant enough to influence public opinions? Was the statement made by a public figure [a person with large followership]? Would a typical person hear or read the statement and wonder: is that true? And does the claim show non-partisanship of the platform? This is to ensure fairness so that it does not seem like we are supporting a particular group or ideology.
As a result, we do not fact-check opinions or predictions as a principle. These are terribly hard to prove [or disprove] and fact-check is really about examining ‘assertions’ that attribute to facts with the hope that the truth is revealed.
Assign to a team of independent experts
Once the quality of the claim has been ascertained, it is assigned to a person (called “contributor”) with the right expertise to research and write it up. The contributor works with other subject-specific experts to develop a well-structured fact check.
Research the claim
Having assigned the claim, our contributor contacts the speaker or their office. We make it necessary to communicate with the speaker – via email, text, call or even visits. Once the claim has been confirmed, we embark on comprehensive research with pre-eminence given to original and reliable sources. Our sourcing policy is keenly guided by a five-layered evaluation mechanism that privileges:
- Named Sources as against unnamed sources
- Authoritative as against random sources
- Independent as against self-interested sources
- Verifiable as against assertive sources
- Multiple as against single sources
Write the report
Armed with sufficient information, the fact check is written. Context, clarity and transparency are ensured in our writing process. The fact check usually answers the following questions: where and when was it said? To whom? Why is this particular statement being fact-checked? What resources, documents, spreadsheets and interviews were used in compiling the fact check?
Edit with scepticism
This is a two-way stage, where the assistant editor “fact checks” the fact check. Afterwards, the fact check will be sent to the editor for final review using standardized questions for each fact check, as well as general knowledge of fact-checking principles.
The fact check is published and distributed on the dubawa.org platform and on social media. Upon publication, readers can provide feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org, our social media handles and in the comments section.
If any fresh evidence comes after publication that significantly changes that story, we will promptly clarify, correct or update the story. In the spirit of transparency, explanations will be offered on what warranted the change, why it was made, and when it was made.
Our research, writing and editing processes are a meticulous passage through a conveyor belt of vetting processes of the claims. This is to guarantee a rigorous verification exercise based on strong evidential support for, or refutation of, the basis of a claim. The end process of the preparation for publication is a mandatory standards review, where the edited work goes through a final check to ensure that it satisfies all the internal protocols of determining truthfulness.