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Global fact-checkers meet in London to talk about success and challenges ahead

fact checkFrom South Korea to Mexico, from India to Ukraine, from Kosovo to the U.S. the second Global Fact-Checking Summit gathers in London fact-checkers and experts from around the world On July 23 and 24. The summit has 74 participants from 31 countries.

Organized by The Poynter Institute and hosted by City University London, the event gathers what is the driving force behind the Summit and what fact-checking veteran Bill Adair describes as the “global movement of fact-checkers.” Over the two-day event, journalists, academics, and fact-checkers will discuss the state of accountability journalism worldwide.

The growth of fact-checking groups with active sites has gone from 44 a year ago to 64, but many issues and challenges lay ahead.

This powerful movement in “truth-checking” (hat-tip to City University’s Jane Singer for the term) is united by a reverence towards truth and facts and the mission of holding people in power accountable for their words. The event is an occasion to take the stock of the evolution of this journalism genre and look at the future ahead.

“It’s amazing how far and wide fact checking has spread,” said Bill Adair opening the event on Thursday morning. “This is a wonderful moment for our movement. In hundreds of ways big and small, fact checking has changed the world. But rather than spend a lot of time celebrating the progress we’ve made, this week I think we should focus on the future and discuss some of our common problems and challenges.”

A few fundamental topics are up to debate: how do we measure the impact of fact checking? Can we assess what a “good fact checking” is?

What are the challenges of reporting from a country with scarcity of data and facts, when confronting with an actual war as well as an information war? What’s the role of technology and computational power in carrying out automated checks to help journalists in their work?

Audience is growing “but it is still too small”, reaching in some countries only a tiny percentage of voters, Adair underlined stressing the need for increasing the reach through creative marketing and partnerships and cooperating with traditional media, while experimenting with the new media.

“We also have to find new ways to make our content engaging. As we all know from looking at our metrics, there is a limited audience that wants to read lengthy policy articles. We need to find ways to make our content lively while still maintaining depth and substance.”

The most pressing challenge fact checkers are facing though is whether there is a sustainable business models for the sites. Some are newer groups and sites – Nepal, Canada, Northern Ireland and Russia; some are from countries where there hasn’t been any before – South Korea, Turkey and Uruguay; some were funded a few years ago and are now scaling up; some are run independently with the support of nonprofit organizations and others operates within established media but the common issue of finding new revenue streams is a critical one.

“We need to think broadly and be creative. We can find long-term success the same way investors do: by diversifying. If we seek different types of revenue from more sources, we’ll be less vulnerable when one goes away”, Adair said.

You can find the full list fact-checking groups around the world at the Duke’s Reporter Labs database.