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Read this: #71 - Full Fact on fake news, Simon Pearson on writing obituaries - The Media Podcast with Olly Mann

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#71 - Full Fact on fake news, Simon Pear…

Hello and welcome to the media podcast I'm Olly Murs today we discussed facts and death.

Yes, we depart from the usual format to bring you two fascinating interviews we have me van Baba, and Phoebe Arnold from pulled back to discuss fact-checking and its role in the digital age and later we'll be speaking to the obituaries editor of The Times Simon Pearson on the art of writing the last word that's coming up on today's Media podcast to start the show in this world of claim and counterclaim web journalism is underfunded and there's a growing distrust of politicians in the mainstream Media where does 110 for verifiable truth full fact is an independent charity you've given themselves the mission to fact-check public figures broadcasters and the pressed me Van Damme car and Phoebe Arnold join me now hello Tebow hello.

Now you launched in 2010 which looking back on it now feels like an Golden Age of truth and decency pre fake news as we know it now.

Why did you launch 7 years ago? Ok? It's not so much the date, but there were that chicken organisations in the US called politifact and and Peter oborne.

He's worth of Telegraph he wrote a book called The Rise of political lying and in it.

He said there's a burning need for fact checkers like they have in the US in the UK at roughly the same time onora O'Neill was talking a lot about trust and transparency in the media.

She did he's really good reflexes.

I thinking 2002 where she said that our ambition is not to place Trust blindly a small children do but to trust claims using information and so we need information to judge the claims that we here now or director will my was working in House of Lords of the time for a crossbench peer called Ludlow and and he was seeing a lot of three things coming in from lobby.

Groups and inaccurate claims and those were making into parliamentary debates.

Sometimes evening to legislation and so he kind of put all these three things together and came up with the idea for full fact I mean unquestionably we live in a world where press releases make it to her.

I'm not being guilty of that myself when I been sent a press release at 23 and I'm about to go at 1 in the morning and it fits perfectly with one about to talk about there's no one to call on the other hand.

I've always felt as a broadcaster.

Not even a journalist that such that it's my responsibility to at least have an air of scepticism about those facts and you would hope that journalist who are working for the print Media is part of their training to do fact-checking so isn't the creation of an organisation like yours admission that something is going wrong shouldn't shouldn't instead people said let's train or journalist better.

I think that's really interesting and funnily enough when I first actor who gave his notice as possible factors used to have that is so I think you're completely right and I suppose maybe it's partly down to and the struggling finances of a lot of Media operations where even though they may have a desire to check that they don't necessarily have the

And that's something that we get love request for particularly during the election in the referendum last year.

I thought we had something like 69 request for briefings and interviews and that was stuff that was kind of on the record and then apart from that.

We had lots of citation.

So people kind of definitely use us as a resource as much as we also holding journalists and politicians to account and I guess me when you're actually competing with the Promotion industry, aren't you with PR and there's more money, but I'm out we all know how that works you know you're a tin food company you go to the park avenue.

Say we want the stat that says 8 Out of 10 Cats prefer trial product key and then they make it true there's no real way of checking those facts unless you're the people who did the research in the first place for people who make claims into actually also release that information especially at least when it's gone something that makes those claims if you're going to come out and say that we've put government money towards for doing this research and we're not going to publish it open the butt.

We are going to tell you what that research led to and this is a big new headline claim that we're going to have passed across the country.

We need to give people the research and tools to be able to judge that claim for themselves and just that research for themselves.

So how does your organisation work now on a daily basis, but was actually like working for you normally we have somebody comes and looks the news picks out claims that they think are interesting to audience or might surprise audience if we fact check them to lose your audience and it's people who worked professionally in politics and journalism and then what we call the kind of political Junkies so if people who followed and the same like some people follow football and maybe they kind of the off at checks almost as a way to kind of get one up on my friends and then the last Kind of broad and vague category is a guess people who interesting issues so the NHS or benefits for immigration.

Just was going to know you question is it in the way is obvious you just look for the fact that is never that simple in politics.

Is it? How do you approach the subject with genuinely no buyers no Prejudice because takes something like immigration.

Got migration watch for example clearly have an agenda, but then clearly also have the promise that they're trying to present facts about all these organisations that have a bias have their own fact-checking teams to your right.

It's really hard.


We have quite a lot of structures and place so that's all I recruitment process.

We do a lot of tests on people to kind of see how they talk about politics and we try and judge whether they have any sensitivity towards the whole idea of Neutrality or whether they're just so biased that they don't even realise they're being biased interestingly we find that historians make really great as we didn't know when we first started out but we've had a lot of them and I think probably because you can hold lots of information in your head number one but also lots of different interpretations of information and having that ability to interpret facts and figures in different ways with different sensitivities is actually really important to factor King but I mean if you're trying to aid the viewer or the listener to come to a decision about an important story I sometimes think is.

The presenter on these shows you know when the fact checking person comes on really what that person is doing is there saying yeah, what you've just heard a simplistic and actually the truth is nuanced, but the audience just get that gist all they get is the just complicated, but it doesn't actually help them.

It doesn't tell them yes, it's true or no.

It's fools.

It actually can muddy the water a bit for some of those he wasn't listening.


I think this is a problem that we struggle with and definitely take it all around the world struggle with is the kind of boring refrain is actually I think you'll find it's more complicated but one thing that's a kind of big topic of contention is the idea of using ratings and one of the reasons we don't use those wears a lot of actually serious because we don't like telling people what to think and we see as are all to give them the information to judge what they're hearing and that's why we kind of looking for more education works educating in schools and universities in in journalism classroom that kind of thing that we can't Factor call the claims so we need to teach other people to do it from selves.

Lots of people of painting it as black and white too often and our job is to adding all the shades of grey and unfortunately that that is saying it's complex and giving people a more nuanced view of the world.

That's because of better reflects the world.

Would you like to see more penalties for particularly political parties that do take it further than the data says I'm thinking back to the referendum campaign here in the battle bus claim it one thing that I had time and again from all the fact check if my patients was what they've written on the battle bus isn't true in terms of the amount of be safe from the EU because of all the complicated reasons we're going to hear but that was a simplistic number and that question was put to Nigel Farage it was put Boris Johnson and they deflected it should there be some sort of legislation that prevents them from saying it in the first place and it out, but I do think it's incredible that the leaflet put throws on store by the Electoral Commission wasn't review for accuracy.

We found quite a lot of mistakes in that and I just find it so surprising but basically you can give out information.

It's not correcting that's publicly-funded number sides by the way it wasn't just the valley campaign remain also put out a lot of inactivation in exaggerated.

Talk to me about your role with social media companies now because Facebook have finally admitted that more needs to be done in terms of fake news across social network definitely and that's really welcome and the fact that they're talking to people outside of the bearing company is really great but I do think there's quite a long way to go so probably be the main thing that people have had about is the third party fact I can pilot which they're doing in the US and Germany and France and I think the idea with that is that users can flag fake news stories URL II's only not means of pictures which I would like them to add into that pilot and then fact checkers get access to that data and then when a user tries to share a story that's been fact checked by factors, although not all of them are necessarily nonpartisan ones in my opinion you get a kind of boxing.

This is been flagged as a possibly dubious disputed by fact checkers and do you want to continue to share it? That's kind of their first attempt from the fact you can put it for you at helping users to understand what they're saying fake news, but I do think it would be really good to see some data about how many throws being flagged and how well with skin is actually working at the moment.

We don't have that so we can't really see whether it's a success or not.

It's also not running in the UK at which is the key thing to say and we're not involved in it but we are involved in with Facebook is the release of these top 10 tips when I say top 10 weirdest enter and they good for your tone tips for example being sceptical of headlines.

They don't always necessarily match up to the story the readers of how to identify fake news.

How do they know these things that people listen?

And actually Phoebe when you said you'd like tea memes and pictures included the obvious example that sprang to my mind then with Sean spices alternative facts was the photo of the bomber organ inauguration as a meme split down the Middle with a picture of the trump inauguration of people that were they called in the sauces that the mill I don't know what are the big the big Road in Washington at the inauguration that was mean that went everywhere.

Yeah, is that the kind of thing what you did want Facebook to analyse it and say yes, that is an accurate representation of events in fact it still those people who said it would not be great.

It's about stopping the spread of misinformation modern is anything else right? It's it if something is wrong before it proliferated across the whole of the internet and everyone who shared it to their friends and misled their family and everything like shared it with other community groups.

It's really important that we at least give these people the chance to correct it and to stop it moving and so what's the future on this I get the same as my van.

This is your department.

Automated fact checking which is a great thing about the nature of public debate is the everybody repeat themselves politicians and campaigners repeat themselves so inevitably a factory Cole eventually or a journalist will have a story written about that main claim that is going on the internet.

So it's about how can you take that claim one time do fractured but also then spot every single instance of a repeated take the 350 million claim free sample we fact check it very early on in the campaign but that fat joke wasn't side-by-side with every single instance of it online so we're building tools that monitors the media have monitors TV subtitles monitors everything said in parliament and then flags every time miss information is repeated and that will help us scale and tell guitar work better.

I will help us quantifier an effect in the world appears as well like did that intervention did that come?

Can actually mean there were fewer instances of that claim eventually yeah, just do more with a team of 11 basically even bother car and Phoebe Arnold and what they do head to coming next how to write an uber for the X potential by definition is the possibility of achieving more in the fast-paced world of digital advertising Oracle data cloud has built its Legacy on finding the signal through the noise on unlocking potential we bring together data and technology to help you better understand your audience where to best engage them and how to measure it all to realise true potential Oracle data cloud where better outcomes begin visit Oracle data cloud.

Come to learn more.

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Wherever you get your podcast obituary writers have been rather busy of late Carrie Fisher prince Muhammad Ali it seems as the world's baby boomers reach a certain age every week seems to bring with it news of another Dead celeb the obituaries editor of The Times is Simon Pearson originating from a small mining town in North Nottinghamshire not exactly a hotbed of journalism.

He set his sights on a career as a hack from the age of 11 when a family.

Friend travel to Vietnam to cover the after effects of the war after studying journalism Simon worked his way up from the Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser to become night editor at the times and no one to his current position so with so many big name seemingly dying all the time.

How does he choose who to write about there? Are the great and the good and the really famous to you.

You have to cover everyone knows them whether it's the Queen or whether it's a former Prime Minister or whether it's very well-known actor or whether it's one of your top PCs and then you've got a huge range of people some of whom automatically come onto your radar because people phone up and they put their names in the death notices and they are pretty well known in their sphere and you commission those Fisheries so sometimes people phone up.

And do they pay to put a death notice in yes the death notices for small classified advertising in which they announce the death of somebody and often you find out about quite prominent people through through the definition of Mercurial yes, what are you looking for when you're looking at your own death notices thinking are there's a story about will do two things you looking for relatively well-known people whose Death not been announced on radio television on the in the news pages of the newspaper and you're looking for interesting lives into the story because after all over trees are not just about recognising the recently dead.

It's about entertaining the readers with colourful stories of people's lives in one of the most important things we consider when weighing up whether to carry an obituary or not is was this person interesting and Wear

Is once upon a time I think judges generals their muscles and MPs automatically got an obituary.

That's not the case with someone's been an MP for a long time but actually I'm not very interesting will say well.

Let's not bother.

I was the change going on when you say you're looking for a story so what makes you prick up your ears whatever kind of details that you think I think operating in Oddball areas of life with a bit like you and your podcast looking for people from different areas of the endeavour and which again to interest your readers because they don't know very much about them for example anything he is here.

We came across a chat on a council estate in Redditch who was making the finest fly fishing rods in the world and making probably no more than £15.20 a year and in some of the

Favourites businessman from Japan it's actually would come to the council estate to his back room and Tuesday rod most unusual and he made a good story so you looking for people who have a different story to tell and how do you tell that story because that's not one you can research easily using the internet is it does not when you later if I don't care about you come across them by accident.

I think with that one.

We had a keen fisherman.

Who bought a lot of him and heard he had died and thought we all to know about it and say and it was probably to 3 weeks after he died and he found us and said I think you should look at this job and of course we did ok.

So how did you end up being the obituary z and Ride been since seniors from the times for a long time 25 years or so and I wrote a book it was the biography of a man called Roger Bushell and

Portable show was big x on the great escape.

I had been interested in him since I was a little boy since my dad took me to see the film at the ABC cinema in Mansfield and then bought me Paul brickhills book of the great escape.

I think the following Christmas or something like that and I had this incredible that sort of interesting this man for years and years and years and research nuggets etc, and then I had this amazing breakthrough and I went for lunch with Ben MacIntyre his well-known orphan works of the times and I told him what I knew about this man, and he just said you have got to get on with this book instead of just talking about it.

I wrote to the Imperial War Museum and this was in the autumn of 2011 having noted the story for a very long time and I got a response that was really.

Might surprising they wrote back and said we can help you the family of notable should be lived in South Africa have been in touch with us in the past few weeks wanted to donate his archive to the museum the Imperial War Museum and Incredibly for 2 years and say do you want to be put in touch so I was putting tights and I got on with them and they gave me access to Rodger Brussels archive letters etc and the Imperial War Museum got involved and commissioned me to write a book which I did that's what I spoke to anyway.

So anyway.

I write this book about Roger Bushell and I spoke Cheltenham and at about the same time.

That's the Cheltenham literary festival and is about the same time as the X header and I change about this turned the new editor and was looking for somebody to take over the rest of the obituary section.

I think as a result of.

Firm the book had written and obviously my interesting biographies.

He thought that I might be worth a chance and I've been knighted.

It's her for a very very long time so it's probably time for a change and see by those fortuitous circumstances in many respects.

I had a new career on the time and very interesting probably in some ways the most unusual over we have run with nobody else friend was Lord Lucan and we ran him last year beginning of last year after the courts had ruled that he was dead and are now designed the body nobody knows where he is.

Generally is not Known what what happened to him, but he's finally sort of Rillington the courts and once they done that we published his obituary and we commission it some weeks beforehand.

I think it was one of most compelling.

Reasons beautifully done very cleverly done and was probably unexpected did brought together everything that everybody knew but it took everyone's through the vents and I think painted the rich picture of him which may be was not altogether known and therefore.

I think it did add something to the Lucan story so let's talk about that other category of people but really famous people have a resume of Lee there's a store is there so that if Prince Philip drop dead today.

There's an obituary ready to go Halfords that can update if there is an obituary of Prince Philip ready to go and the current version was written last year.

Just as there is an obituary of the Queen and and that was first written in the early 1950s was updated again last year and the aftermath of the last big celebration which was the Diamond Jubilee I think they really we continually.

Dating a vitreous of that kind of thing also Styles change under the current editor of The Times John witherow.

He wants far more writing that it's normal colour and insights into the family so we have to take the stock over its we've got we've got about 5000 wow.

I will say that have been built up over 60 years or more most of them when it comes to publication.

I need re writing or editing very carefully and it's very rare that you can go into the library Pullen obituary, put it straight in the paper.

You're not dealing so much for definite celebrating life is celebrating someone's achievements telling the story of her usually a successful life or at least in part a successful life with people have achieved great things in in their lives.

I think when you're writing a feature article about someone in this respect call isn't obituary.

You're researching a life a biography.

It's fascinating and I did well on their deficits, but there are times.

I think particularly when people die Young there are some very sad stories, so I have been very sad stories of people who have gone yeah, when you find out a lot about them and their families and everything and I think it does it does touch a new one of the things which strikes me as an individual more than anything else is the number of people who loom so large in my childhood in the late 50s and 60s to sort television stars television was coming to a very much coming in today in the pop stars of the day everything who regularly feature on our obituaries pages now.

I find that quite certain moments when I get my sort of Flash back to being a child and it happens quite regularly because the vents and personalities that leaves a large then I coming through the pages.

I edit it say.

People measure out their own life isn't it? I mean you saw that really clearly I think with Barry's death last year that for a lot of baby boomers are people born just after that.


There's someone who was younger than them.


It was cooler than them yesterday.

Yes, it was an incredible reaction to Boris death probably more than any other I can think of in the past few years.

He had an enormous impact.

What about when there are massively unanswered questions re Michael Jackson springs to mind here where you know there was a court case but nothing was ever been to him.

You know you type his name into a search engine one of the first things you can see your questions about child abuse and yet unassailable musical Legend there's an incredible story they're about you know child 32 teenagers through to pop star how much emphasis do you give something like that which you know maybe in 50 years time might be the story but isn't now well.

I think it's a big obituary and that's a complex obituary as well.

You cover them you.

And have a huge impact of his music but you also tell the story of this troubles life and I think it's so you don't hold back here give you get the whole story and I think if you look at the archives are some the bitterest that you've actually like to write again.

Jimmy Savile is a classic example where the OBE it was a great tribute to his charitable work held them up in high esteem, and if you go to the library.

Look at it you think my goodness we got that wrong everyone got it wrong, but it does make you think the obituary is not necessarily the last word.

I mean obviously we're talking pretty much in the shadow with Martin McGuinness having just either ringing there's an example of someone who are imaginary obituary has changed dramatically over the past two decades.

Yes, I mean we wouldn't have written an obituary until relatively recently.

I don't think I'm duly entered the Little Britain

Who deserves it between who doesn't deserve an obituary and again? I think that's changing in the in the sense that if somebody had a major impact on Society one Way Or Another for good or for bad.

We will cover them and they clearly McGuinness became a quite significant figure over the past 15 years, but I mean that I pick that example because not only is it recent but also know what's going on politically in Ireland at the moment is a life situation so imagine almost his obituary would have been different if it were written two months ago, but it'll yes it was updated on the day of publication because of events in Northern Ireland are ongoing and the question is where do you where do you stop and I didn't think the picture is actually about necessary bringing you write up to the hour is the story of a life.

It's not the story of events and sometimes obituaries.

I didn't get confused 8lu an awful.

Lot about.

Create event and less about the person involved and then there are the very notable people who died very suddenly and no one expected them to yes trying to think of example and obviously George Michael with recent although he had trouble with drugs in the past.

I guess you had something like that.

We were having a look at some Kirk Douglas chair turned 100 recently so we had a good chat to him because that's me.

You know you heard we had some considerable time ago that John Hurt had cancer his obit was written an up-to-date and Clive James has been very awful long time and he's actually at he seems to have lived there a great deal longer than people expected to him.

He himself expected much as I can with poetry and is written a great deal since we had his obituary retina couple of years ago and so that she can bring update.

All the time but we sometimes we caught out Gene Wilder die late last year and we hadn't got a strong Rovers on him at all and we had two ways today which was actually if you waiting for the Telegraph did have a good one they put it up online and we were they behind it does happen it happen Slim have so as I think that's the way it goes sometimes, but you're always wear a commissioning those people really prominent people we do try to make sure we've got good a bit in the style.

We want ready to go so even if they're relatively young and nothing in their career suggest that they are about to have a tragic accident in certainly we commissioned Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the start of the American election campaign we leaving the gym brexit.

Are we commissioned Nigel Farage he never quite know what what what happens? What's coming next and so with?

Freeware and we are commissioning all the time and sometimes.

They're quite funny consequences.

They think some years ago.

We were doing and this is the American writer Bill Bryson who happened to be a work the times that say one stage or another and so we got a rumour that he had taken out British Citizenship and my colleague even check call Andrew Riley inflamed brysons agents and said look can I speak to you in complete confidence really doing a stopover it on Bill Bryson can you tell us whether he took out British citizenship or not and the agency said ok will look out try to find out for you and I'll get back tomorrow and the following day Andrew got a call and it was Bill Bryson he said I want you to know that I am still an American citizen.

I haven't taken out British citizenship.

As it happens when writing a feature for the times at the moment and I hope the good is my article appears long before you're asked to read I have had people ringing up asking if we be interested in writing their obituary well.

It's still alive and we have interviewed people directly for there obituary, but it doesn't happen very often that's a fascinating interview people must be prepared to say things that they know we're only going to be published after they die.

They wouldn't say whether I will it take the date of the Sun newspaper.

Look in America which have done video bits and is a chance for the separate maybe to say things which they would normally say in the normal run of things but we we tried with a sample of people to see if they've been interested in doing a video.

Babe, it's it's unfair video testimony and we haven't had any takers yet.

We had a couple of Buddhism hold and said I think about it and get back to earth but majority just said know if you ever had to write an obituary of someone you know yes, I have I have the with a friend who died last year as an architect who I knew a lot about and I think that was that was quite difficult must be hard to write in subclinical hairstyle about someone you're emotionally involved with it.

Is that I didn't actually write the obituary.

I handed it over to someone else and gave them a lot of information.

I think it's very difficult sometimes to I did think necessary should write the obituaries about before you're very close to I think you have to take stand back and give it to someone who can be pets be more objective that was Simon Pearson thank you to him that interview was recorded originally for my other pub.

Series the modern man you can find out and many other interviews with jumper that shout modern man with two that's it for today.

Thank you to Simon Phoebe and me then and to you for listening this episode is dedicated to Andy winter works of a students union and says Olly can you bring up a student Media groups urm radio impact magazine and NS TV consider it done and he thank you for your support.

I've been only man the producer Matt Hill and the media podcast is a PPM production until next time potential by definition is the possibility of achieving more in the fast-paced world of digital advertising Oracle data cloud has built its Legacy on finding the signal through the noise on unlocking potential we bring together data and technology to help you better understand your audience where to best engage them and how to measure a tool to realise.

true potential Oracle data cloud where better outcomes begin visit Oracle data cloud to learn more

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