Journalism is a very fast-paced industry, and while we’re chasing people for comments or chasing deadlines, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics of reporting which can result in an error or two. 

As custodians of the truth, it is our responsibility to ensure that the information we feed to the public is factual and credible. To assist with this, Africa Check has been hosting workshops for journalists to equip them with essential fact-checking skills and verification tools to prepare them for the election period, which tends to be a breeding ground for spreading false information. So, here’s what you need to know to spot false information and report on the facts. 

  1. How to spot false information 
  • If the information seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true, and if it elicits feelings of shock, anger or fear, then it’s worth giving it a second look.
  • Poor grammar and spelling tend to signal invalid information 
  • Check website addresses and social media handles, and ensure they belong to legitimate organisations and people, and not parody accounts. 

If you are suspicious of information, run it past a search engine and cross-check the information with reputable news sources or organisations. 

  1. How to decide what to fact-check 
  • You can fact-check information that can verified using evidence, which includes statistics, laws, scientific evidence and historical information
  • You can fact-check outcomes of promises
  • You can’t fact-check opinions / subjective statements 
  • You can’t fact-check promises or predictions
  1. How to fact-check claims
  • Identify the credibility of the original source of information, and their motive for making the claim
  • Question the relevant (fact-checkable) details in the statement 
  • Cross-check the details with recent and reliable evidence – try to use more than one source 
  • Reach out to experts for additional information 
  • Outline your fact-checking process and state whether the claim was true or not – link to the relevant sources 
  1. Fact-checking politicians’ claims 
  • Determine whether statements are fact-checkable. Usually these would contain numbers, sectors, comparisons and outcomes
  • Decide if a statement is worth fact checking for the public’s interest 
  • Ask the original source where they got their information from or check it for yourself
  • Assess the evidence: who published it, when did they publish it and what is the context and background of the content and does it align with the initial claim
  • Understand why the claim was made and if it is a probable conclusion before ruling it as false, but also accept that mistakes do happen 
  1. Where to find relevant information 
  • Statistical agencies: Statistics South Africa, World Bank, IMF, UN, WHO, Unicef
  • Published journals and peer-reviewed research papers 
  • Government Gazettes and Parliamentary Monitoring Group
  • Website documents and archival data
  • Africa Check and other reputable websites 

The training sessions are a good way to relearn journalism basics but also include some tricks and hacks for reporting in the new, digital age. 

Africa Check has two more training workshops for the elections coalitions

  1. Online session on the 18th and 19th of April, from 9am – 13:00. Link: online elections workshop 18 & 19 April 2024
  2. In-person in Cape Town. Link: Cape Town – elections workshop 

For more about the training reach out to Africa Check at

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