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2017 Planned News/Events, Small Newsroom winner

CrossCheck France

About the Project

CrossCheck is an online verification newsroom collaboration that was inspired by Electionland, an initiative in which First Draft partnered with ProPublica. We wanted to build on that project by supporting mainstream newsrooms to collaboratively verify rumors in real time. Our first project brought together 37 newsroom and five technology partners in France and the UK to help accurately report false, misleading and confusing claims that circulated online in the ten weeks leading up to the French Presidential election in May 2017.

The aim of CrossCheck was to provide the public with the necessary information to form their own conclusions about the information they receive.

The project was the brainchild of Jenni Sargent. She ran a four-hour meeting in Paris on January 6 with more than 40 French journalists from different newsrooms, who were originally skeptical about how they could collaborate, particularly on a story as “big” as the Presidential election. But, they agreed in principle, and in less than three weeks, the project took shape including the design and build of the website and visual language, deciding on workflows, hiring editors, and choosing technologies. First Draft organized a two-day boot camp where journalists got to know each other, and began to build trust.

A crucial element of the project was including national and regional newsrooms. National partners had the capacity to publish all debunks. Smaller newsrooms, benefited from having access to cutting-edge technology and verification experts to support them in writing articles that were affecting their region in France.

In all, 64 debunks were published in French and English. To the right of each report, there are logos from each newsroom that participated and confirmed the investigative work. Each report is published with the following distinction: True, False, Caution, Insufficient Evidence and Attention. If the story was false, we further clarified how the story was false — manipulated, fabricated, misattributed, misleading, misreported or satire — to help readers see that there is more nuance to the “fake news” issue.

We had several hunches going into CrossCheck:

  1. Collaborative journalism helps build capacity around verification, which benefits all newsrooms.
  2. Having multiple logos next to each published article might boost trust with readers.
  3. Giving a layered distinction to each post improves news literacy and creates better news consumers.
  4. By taking readers through a step-by-step analysis of where an online claim was right, and where and how it was false, we could better inform the public.

We are in the process of researching the data to better understand the project’s impact. But what we know today is: 37 newsrooms across an entire country that were once natural competitors became allies on debunking misinformation on a critical topic that was poised to determine the fate of the European Union. Many CrossCheck France journalists want to continue the project, and we’ve had requests to have CrossCheck on national elections Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan and South Korea. Now, thanks to CrossCheck France, we have a blueprint that we will continue to refine.