Early insights about 20 experimental grants to improve the flow of accurate information

In 2017, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with the Democracy Fund and Rita Allen Foundation, awarded $1 million to 20 organizations for projects designed to improve the flow of accurate news and information. The projects included promising proposals in the areas of media literacy, journalism and community engagement, infrastructure for accurate information and tools for fact-checking.

While many of the results are far from conclusive, important learnings emerged from these experiments, many of which are continuing. Of the 20 efforts, project work continues on 13 projects, while 12 are seeking additional funding. This report summarizes findings from an ongoing review conducted by the firm Network Impact

SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS:

  • Media Literacy Efforts Show Positive Results: All the media literacy projects showed positive results, both to improve and deepen understanding of the news media as well as to serve as a foundation for fact-checking projects that require education and trust in media and media organization processes. Most media literacy projects produced measurable upticks in users’ ability to discern accurate information.
  • Computational Efforts to Identify Online Misinformation Promising: Multiple tools to automate processes that can flag “junk’’ content showed high success rates. One prototype used machine learning to accurately score and elevate quality journalistic content with the goal of using those recommendations in search engines and curation systems.
  • Improving Credibility Challenging—Context Matters: Some projects showed that certain approaches don’t increase the credibility of accurate information. Experiments to see whether design plays a role showed that some approaches don’t make much difference to readers’ assessment of the credibility of content.Fact checking sites were viewed as more credible when readers understood the background of the fact-checkers and the methodology used. This finding, along with the success of media literacy projects, suggests that media literacy curricula should include primers on what journalistic fact-checking is and does to improve trust in the process and outcomes.
  • Audio and Video Verification a Next Frontier: As audio and video become more prevalent in the news ecosystem, tools to let people examine the source of audio and video clips and extracting the data for use in other reporting showed great potential and interest from journalism organizations.

Image (top) by Pixabay, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 and modified by Knight Foundation.