How Spanish newspaper El Pais is tackling fake news
When reports spread on Jan. 22 that footballer Cristiano Ronaldo injured his hand and had to abandon his Lamborghini, Spanish newspaper El País’ first call was to the police. When they couldn’t confirm the story, and it later surfaced that the car belonged to someone else, the Spanish newspaper debunked the false claim.
Football is a serious business in Spain, though this still falls on the gossip end of the scale of fake news. Still, there’s no disputing the spread of most false information can cause brands, politicians and citizens damage. Now El País is giving more permanent space to lambasting lies on a new blog called Hechos (which translates as “fact”).
“We’ve seen a lot of them in the past year, a bunch of these sites that make stories that rely on rumors,” said David Alandete, managing editor at El País. These purveyors of misinformation, he said, mimic the structure of legitimate news sites; they have similar names, typography, layouts and are deliberately confusing.
“The problem as an editor is how this pretend journalism relies on perception, emotions, documents that are not real, and they get into the big news cycle in Spain,” said Alandete.
Sites like OKdiario and PR Noticias (PR News) feature industry gossip or rumors that can spread to mainstream publishers. While the overheads of some of these sites are low — often requiring just a couple of people writing stories — they can drive display ad revenue, especially when the right amount of pressure is applied. Last year, the editor of PR Noticias was jailed for four months for blackmailing a politician after he was found guilty of threatening to publish a dossier containing incriminating information.
Each country’s brand of fake news differs. While María Ramírez, political reporter at Univision Communications, believes there is politically driven fake news in Spain, a lot of it is also due to weak reporting, which is the result of a limited investment in journalism since 2008.
“The economic crisis created a lot of insecurity, foreclosures, mass firings and the ascent of new parties that have shattered the two-party system we have had since the consolidation of democracy,” said Alandete. Currently, the People’s Party represent the government, after a contested election in 2016 strengthened its power; the remaining parties fall to the center and left: the socialist, populist and Communist parties.
“I would not say it is the cause of the proliferation of fake-news sites, but those conditions certainly have originated a distrust in all institutions, included the press,” he added.
Like many publishers, El País’ editors are involved in fact-checking its journalism. It has also recently tasked five members of its production team with fact-checking responsibilities. For now, this is all done manually. But it’s also talking with Facebook, Google and Twitter about how it can curtail the distribution of fake news.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the editor of PR Noticias had been jailed for four years, rather than four months.
Images: via Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram.
‘Football has lost its soul’: How Copa90 is repositioning itself around the creator economy
Copa90’s overseers believe there’s another shift happening in tandem with the corporatization of the sport that has the potential to be just as transformative
Why The New York Times’ Wirecutter is ramping up focus on style
In early 2021, Wirecutter soft-launched a new dedicated style section and is is currently hiring for style-dedicated roles.
‘Culture change takes years’: Facing ongoing calls for DE&I gains, publishers set new standards for hiring practices
The media industry is trying to solve a long-standing challenge: it is mostly white and male. Here's how some publishers are doing it.
SponsoredHow retailers can be ready for holiday shoppers this year
Suchi Sastri, managing director and partner, Boston Consulting Group As the holiday season approaches and the pandemic continues to evolve, retailers want to know what to expect. Will e-commerce continue to grow at the rate it did last year? How big of a role will in-store shopping play in holiday shopping? While it’s still early, […]
Meet the ‘absolutist’ with the Section 230 tattoo on Google’s new misinformation policy team
Part of a nascent government affairs and public policy team at Google, Jess Miers is a die-hard fan of the 26-word law that gives legal cover to big tech platforms.
‘A perfect time for someone like me to be in this role’: Maria Reeve is breaking barriers at the Houston Chronicle
Maria Reeve didn’t set out to become the first person of color to oversee the Houston Chronicle’s newsroom. But now that she is, she’s making it count.