I’ve worked with journalists in 22 countries, and there’s an essential skill that we all use, every day: sorting out what’s fact and what’s opinion. Finding and using facts distinguishes professional journalism from propaganda and commentary that poses as news.
The mark of a professional is skills and hard work – to verify the reality of an issue or event, to present the facts in a clear, accurate way. Untrained and unprofessional journalists passively receive and pass on what officials say, offer personal viewpoints, or report without attribution what “everybody knows.”
In this year’s U.S. presidential and Congressional elections, rumors and lies were carefully checked and refuted by top professional news organizations – notably the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politifact. Fact-checking is essential in helping American voters make decisions in a very contentious race.
In Pakistan, our team has been working together on election fact-checking since the beginning of 2013 when Truth Tracker was born (www.truthtracker.pk). Our reporters and editors together learned the techniques of fact-checking, and the related skills of promise-tracking to follow up on what action candidates took once they were elected.
Pakistan’s peaceful transfer of power in 2013 was historic, but the real work of democracy goes on every single day. Our news cooperative News Lens Pakistan (www.newslens.pk), founded in 2014, carried forward the work of Truth Tracker with its focus on accountability, human rights, security and economic development reporting. We work with citizens, organizations and officials to hold accountable those who hold public office.
Democracy isn’t for lazy people. In these pages, you’ll see the hard work of a team devoted to tracking down the truth. We hope you will use this information to keep building democracy in Pakistan – and support Truth Tracker journalists as they carry on.