The International Center for Journalists is Expanding its TruthBuzz Initiative


Audience trust in news media is at an all time low, and with the frequency at which misinformation spreads today, fact-checking has never been more crucial.

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has partnered with six newsrooms in the U.S., Brazil and Nigeria to experiment with innovative projects and help communicate fact-checked information in a compelling and sharable way through a TruthBuzz Fellowship.

Collaborating with First Draft News, the TruthBuzz Fellows are appointed by ICFJ. They must have the experience and skills necessary to envision and execute successful projects that will drive new ways of fact-checking. Although there are multiple fact-checking organizations already out there, ICFJ believes it is beneficial to add a fresh pair of eyes to newsrooms committed to stopping misinformation.

Pictured are Sérgio Spagnuolo, ICFJ TruthBuzz Fellow from Brazil (left); Aimee Rinehart, training and international projects manager with First Draft News (middle); and Nic Dias, senior research fellow for First Draft News (right). (Photo by Oren Levine)

The Fellows will be placed at the Aos Fatos and Folha de Sao Paulo in Brazil; Africa Check and Daily Trust in Nigeria; and the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. and fact-checking website PolitiFact. The U.S. fellowship is for one year while the others are for six months. Although the U.S. Fellow will predominately work with the News & Observer, he/she will offer support to other regional papers owned by its parent company, McClatchy.

Cassandra Balfour, ICFJ program manager, said they chose these countries because they all have vibrant media scenes and are influencers in their respective regions. They also considered the fact that all five of them would be holding elections soon. TruthBuzz Fellows are also scheduled to launch in India and Indonesia this fall.

Balfour said Fellows will design and launch new storytelling methods that will improve the reach and impact of new innovative fact-checking models.

“They’ll collaborate with the fact-checking team, graphics team, social media team, among others,” she said. “The Fellows will also share promising approaches with their TruthBuzz counterparts in other countries, and with other newsrooms in their own countries, offering trainings on verification and storytelling methods.”

Alexsandra Canedo, ICFJ program officer, added, “We do not believe that there is a cookie-cutter approach, so (storytelling methods) will depend heavily on the local context and the needs of each audience.”

TruthBuzz was originally launched as a viral fact-checking contest to crowdsource new ways to combat misinformation and help verified facts reach audiences in a fun way. According to Balfour, that inspired ICFJ to continue working with Craig Newmark Philanthropies to see if they could take the winning TruthBuzz entries and test those formats with different audiences.

“We hope not only to increase the reach of fact-checking by our newsroom partners, but also expand the reach and impact of fact-checking more broadly by spreading approaches that work,” said Balfour.


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