Checking information has always been a key part of journalism. However, with social networks and the speed with which stories and public discourse – false and true – are spread, the role of the fact checker has become even more crucial to separating fact from fiction. In order to expand the knowledge of fact checking among journalists, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ for its acronym in Portuguese), with the support of Google News Lab, launch the first massive open online course (MOOC) in Portuguese on the topic: “Fact checking, the tool to combat fake news.”
The MOOC will take place between June 5 and July 2, 2017 and will be taught by journalist Cristina Tardáguila, director of Agência Lupa, Brazil’s first fact-checking agency. Click here to sign up for this free MOOC.
In four weeks, participants will learn the origins of fact checking and major sites for the practice around the world, techniques and methodologies behind fact checking, ethical principles of checkers and the background of some of the most influential works in the field. And they will see, by means of practical exercises, that anyone can (and should) be a checker.
“We are just over a year away from the 2018 presidential elections and in the midst of two major crises: one political and one economic. It is an environment conducive to the dissemination of lies,” Tardáguila warned. “So we opened this fact checking MOOC to show that anyone can check, but the process requires technique and ethics. They are two indispensable ingredients.”
Tardáguila is a pioneer in the verification of public discourse in Brazil. In 2014, while she was assistant politics editor of the newspaper O Globo, she launched and coordinated the blog Preto en Branco. In November 2015, she launched Agência Lupa, which joins a select group of checking platforms from around the world with the seal of quality issued by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).
As with all Knight Center courses, Tardáguila will present her lessons by video, and participants will also have access to presentations, readings, discussion forums and weekly quizzes. The MOOC is asynchronous, meaning there are no live activities, students can participate and complete the practical activities throughout the week at their own pace. However, there will be weekly deadlines for each module.
The course was designed for journalists, but is open to anyone interested in learning fact-checking methodology. There are no prerequisites, participants will only need a stable internet connection to access the weekly modules.
The course is free, but participants wishing to receive a certificate of completion must meet the requirements, apply for the certificate, and pay a $30 administrative fee using an international credit card. The certificate will be issued only to students who actively participate in the course and complete the tests and exercises required. The document can be downloaded in PDF format after the Knight Center verifies whether the course requirements have been met. No formal academic credit is associated with the certificate.
“This is the first Knight Center fact-checking course and we are very proud of this new project, again a partnership with ANJ and Google. This skill is increasingly in demand in the journalistic market and Cristina is a prominent professional in this area,” said Professor Rosental Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin. “In the midst of the proliferation of fake news, the new techniques used in fact checking are increasingly imperative for journalists and should be disseminated.”
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Alves, Knight Chair in Journalism and UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. The Knight Center distance learning program continues with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Moody College of Communication of the University of Texas and other donors; as well as income from registration fees and issuance of certificates. Since 2012, MOOCs and other Knight Center online journalism courses have reached more than 90,000 people in 169 countries.