Telex's Fact-checking Methodology
At Telex, we believe that the media’s job is not only to report on current events, but also to verify the claims of influential actors that reach a large audience. Fact-checking has always been part of our everyday work, so we created the new Ellenőrző section to help our readers find our fact-checking articles as easily as possible.
On the Internet, it is easy to get lost among fake news and misinterpretations. Just think of the ones that appeared on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of Ellenőrző is not just to prove if something is true or false, but also to help readers to at least be able to identify dubious claims later on their own, by describing the verification process in detail.
We follow IFCN’s Code of Principle and Telex’s Code of Ethics in every piece of our fact check and do our work based on these. Our analyses are based on the values and methods set out in these documents.
Non-partisanship is important to Telex, and we have emphasised this in our Code of Ethics. Our journalists uphold the value of non-partisanship at all times in their work, in their articles and in their behaviour on social media and during other public appearances.
What do we check?
For our fact-checking materials, we do not only investigate the allegations that spread like wildfire on social media, but we also verify statements of public interest. We check a broad range of claims, whether from an elected politician, a political influencer from outside of Parliament, actors, musicians, a public figure or a faceless user on Facebook. We have a set of criteria for choosing material to check:
- Is it relevant, timely?
- Is it a public interest issue?
- If the claim is found to be false or inaccurate, could it potentially have dangerous or harmful effects?
- Has it reached a wide audience? Is there a public debate about the claim? Looking at metrics and interactions on social media, is it something that has a potential to reach an even wider audience?
- Are there any facts in the claim to check, or is it an opinion?
Since the question is not only what someone said, but also why they said it, we always try to reach out to the person concerned – if it is possible. If they answer, we quote the relevant part of their reply in the article, and we do so even if they reply only after the fact-check has been published. If we are waiting for a response, we will also indicate this in the article.
We know, of course, that in a political speech, for example, one tends to use wordy phrases, and many people use the device of poetic hyperbole. That is why, in our work, we also take into account the circumstances and context of the statement being made – not least because, unfortunately, we cannot put a journalist next to every politician to be ready to check their every statement. If we find ourselves in a situation where we have more statements to check than what we have the capacity for, we will choose between them according to which allegations have a greater impact on society and the audience they have reached.
It is also important that the claim we are investigating can be verified at all. Therefore, we do not check opinions. We might write about them on Telex, but not necessarily with a focus on their veracity. We investigate a claim if it appears to be misleading or incorrect. We do not deal with slips of the tongue and misquotes, unless it is a very important claim.
Our independence and impartiality are important to us, but because the media has the ability and duty to closely examine our leaders, we are likely to investigate the claims of those in power more often, because they tend to affect more people and reach a wider audience.
Where do we get the claims we check?
In the course of our work, we read and listen to statements, speeches and promises from public figures every day, and we also monitor social media. But that does not mean we can cover all aspects of life, so, as with all our other articles, we often ask for the advice of experts. To ensure our credibility, when possible, we provide the titles of the experts we consult, as described in our Code of Ethics.
These experts not only help us check the claims, but sometimes give us tips on important cases they think we should fact-check. This works so well that our goal is to get our readers involved: we ask them if they have come across a claim that
- Is based on a verifiable fact,
- Deals with a matter of public interest,
- Has reached many people and seems to be something that spreads easily on the Internet,
to please send it to email@example.com or to one of our social media pages.
During the checks, we ask, as mentioned, for the help of experts, but we also use outside sources such as publically available data from trusted or verifiable sources (such as an Office of Statistics of a country), peer-reviewed studies, articles from trusted media outlets – although sometimes a simple Google search is enough. When possible, we use primary sources, and in most cases we provide links for sources in our articles so our readers can see the material we reference.
Articles with the fact-checking tag are all our own content. Fact-checks from other outlets might be used as a source for a regular article, but we will not claim it as our own fact-check. At Telex, we value accuracy above speed: we always pay attention to the sources and to the veracity and fragmentation of the information. Our priority is to provide accurate information, so we would rather wait longer for the necessary data than rush to publish a half-baked fact check.
After checking a claim, it is classified into one of four categories:
- Mostly true
- Mostly false
The first and last are used in cases where all elements of the statement are true or false. However, there are more complex cases where an essentially false claim has a grain of truth in it – often to make the fake news seem more credible.
We would use mostly true when, for example, someone would say that Hungarian teachers on average earn X amount, less than the national average. If, on average, they do earn less than the national average, but it is closer to X+50 thousand HUF, then it is only mostly true.
If a politician's real statement is taken out of context to support an otherwise false claim, then the rating would be mostly false.
What happens if we make a mistake?
As stated in our Code of Ethics, “We write the truth, accurately and to the best of our knowledge, and do our utmost to avoid errors and mistakes. However, if an error is made in our content, whether it is our own information or taken from another publication, we will correct the false information as quickly as possible and clearly indicate the fact of the change, except for spelling errors and stylistic corrections. Corrections will only be communicated at the request of the person concerned if an editorial decision agrees to it.”
If we have made a factual error, if we have linked incorrectly or if we have given an assessment in the article that is contrary to the summary of the article, we will indicate so in the article after the correction.
Depending on the extent of the error, the way in which the article is corrected will vary. If it is a typo or grammatical error that does not affect the content of the text or the conclusion that can be drawn from it, it will be corrected in the article, but not specifically indicated.
If there is incorrect information in the article that affects its content or important information is missing, it will be marked with "Frissítés - idő: (Update - time:)" before the correction/addition in the changed part. If we make a change to the evaluation in the article, we will indicate it at the end of the article by highlighting it in italics. We will also explain the background to the change. The author and editor of the article are primarily responsible for correcting errors.
All our journalists' email addresses are listed in the Impressum, and since our articles include the author's name, readers can easily write directly to the journalist if they find an error. You can also write to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is visible to all journalists, so there is a good chance of a response/correction as soon as possible.
Who works on Ellenőrző?
Any Telex journalist can write a fact-checking article, but that doesn't mean the section doesn't have a team behind it. The permanent members are:
Editor: Zsolt HANULA, editor of Telex, formerly of Index. In 2017, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences awarded him the Academic Journalism Prize in recognition of his effective journalistic work in promoting science and his work in exposing pseudoscience.
Section manager: Máté VILÁGI, technology and science journalist at Telex. He started his career at Index in 2019 and has been a staff writer at Telex since its launch. He completed the IFCN fact-checking network training in 2021, and since then he has been regularly working on fact-checking articles and on the creation and development of Ellenőrző.
Permanent contributor: Nikoletta NAGY, technology and science journalist at Telex.hu. She has been working as a journalist since 2012, has worked for the biggest Hungarian online news portals and has been regularly fact-checking for a few years. She is a 2020 fellow of the International Journalism Programme.
You can read more about the principles we work with in our Code of Ethics.
In the interest of transparency, we regularly publish transparency reports. You can find them on our transparency page.
You can find out more about Telex, and the people working here in our Impressum.