transfer 19(4) » Journalismus

Fact-checking sites in German and Italian Journalism

A comparative analysis

Fact-checking sites are a relatively unknown phenomenon in Europe and thus also an unexplored area of study. From assuming that fact-based reporting contributes to objectivity/truthfulness in journalism – which is an important issue in many ways – this research derives its origin. It makes an attempt to find out why a notion of fact-checking as a “stand-alone” practice exists, although checking facts usually is assumed to be a task of journalism itself.
The main claim is that the position and role of fact-checking as practice (whether in or towards journalism) reveals the relevance or irrelevance of “truth” in journalism. Comparing the situation in Germany and Italy, this research aims not only for finding out whether this claim can be confirmed or not, but also in which way the role of fact-checking is linked to a country’s journalism culture.
In order to gain data with qualitative research, five semi-structured interviews with (former) Italian and German fact-checkers were conducted. The results confirm a strong distinction regarding the position and role of fact-checking in or towards journalism of these two countries: while fact-checking seems to be firmly fixed in German journalism, for Italian journalism it seems to be an “external service”. Further, it can be concluded that journalism in Germany hews closer to the ideal of objectivity/truthfulness than journalism in Italy.