More Latin American journalists are using fact-checking and data analysis tools, ICFJ research finds

The use of digital fact-checking and information verification tools has nearly doubled among journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past two years, according to unpublished data from a survey by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) obtained by the Knight Center.

The results of the global survey were released Oct. 15 in the report “2019 State of Technology in Global Newsrooms,” which updates and expands ICFJ research done for the first time in 2017. ICFJ provided the Knight Center with specific data about Latin America and the Caribbean that is not in the reports and that points to regional trends in the use of digital technologies in newsrooms.

In 2017, 51 percent of journalists from around the world who took part in the survey said they used digital fact-checking and information verification tools, while only 26 percent of Latin American journalists said the same. By 2019, 51 percent of Latin Americans said they used these tools, nearly double what they reported two years ago. Around the world, the increase was less notable, with 56 percent of journalists claiming to use digital verification tools such as fact-checking websites and platforms, tools for detecting plagiarism and reverse image search, among others.

Figures from the ICFJ survey alluded to the concern of Latin American journalists about the spread of disinformation and the need to address this challenge. They also help quantify the impact of the plethora of fact-checking initiatives in the region over the past two years, such as Verificado in Mexico; Comprova in Brazil; Verificado.uy in Uruguay; Reverso in Argentina; RedCheq, in Colombia; and Bolivia Verifica.

Analysis and use of data to create reports in Latin America and the Caribbean also increased considerably over the period, following a global trend: 33 percent of Latin American journalists said they used data to create their stories in 2017, while in 2019 this proportion increased to 56 percent. Considering journalists from around the world, this figure has gone from 36 percent to 61 percent.

Nearly a third of Latin American and Caribbean journalists said they analyze and use data on a daily basis (32%), and 56 percent of them said that at least once a week they do the same to guide their stories. Thirty-one percent said they create visualizations and infographics and 25 percent said they do statistical analysis weekly, while 10 percent said they do the former, and 11 percent the latter, every day.

Despite this increase in the use of digital skills, Latin America was the region where journalists are least likely to receive specialized training from the newsrooms where they work. Of the Latin American and Caribbean respondents, 32 percent said they had received technical skills training, 32 percent on social media and 24 percent on data journalism. East/Southeast Asian journalists were most likely to have received training in each of these skills: 66 percent in the first, 65 percent in the second and 48 percent in the third.

Diversification of revenue sources is main challenge

Among Latin American and Caribbean respondents to the ICFJ survey, 35 percent said they worked in digital newsrooms, 19 percent in traditional newsrooms (print, television and radio) and 48 percent in hybrid newsrooms, which combine digital and traditional formats.

The most cited source of revenue among respondents in the region was digital display advertising (45%), followed by sponsored content (44%), online subscriptions/memberships (33%), traditional advertising (32%) and philanthropic contributions/grants (24%).

The diversification of sources of revenue for the news media was item most cited as a “major challenge” by Latin American and Caribbean respondents (75%), who showed concern slightly above the global average (73%). The other “major challenges” identified in the region were the introduction of artificial intelligence in newsrooms (68%), the development of new narrative formats and experiences for storytelling (59%), the incorporation of virtual reality in news products (57%) and attracting advertisers (56%).

Latin American newsrooms near gender parity

Women accounted for 40 percent of all journalists and thirty-three percent of newsroom managers in the ICFJ global survey done in 2019 - similar to percentage recorded in 2017. The Latin America and Caribbean region is one of the closest to reaching gender parity. Forty-nine percent of journalists are women in the region. The figure is the same when considering newsroom managers.

The number of women journalists is higher in North America (56%) and Europe (51%). South Asia (26%) and the Middle East/North Africa (29%) have the lowest percentages of women among the survey respondents.

The ICFJ survey was conducted between Feb. 28 and May 6, 2019 through an online questionnaire in 14 languages. 4,111 people from 149 countries participated - 3,060 of them were journalists and 1,051 were newsroom managers.

Participants from Latin America and the Caribbean made up the majority of survey respondents - 22 percent. Then came respondents from the Middle East/North Africa (17%), Sub-Saharan Africa (17%), Southeast/East Asia (15%), South Asia (11%), Eurasia/Former USSR (7%), Europe (5%), and North America (4%).