ViaPaís was born in 2015 as a breaking news site from Argentina. It started with four newsrooms and currently has more than 55 distributed in different parts of Argentina, giving voice to all the provinces and towns from around the country.
As a digital native news media outlet, it took additional effort to create a brand and become a trusted medium in a time when misinformation is widespread.
At ViaPaís, we take checking the news seriously. Despite being a “breaking news” site and working extensively with social networks, the classic methods of verifying information are part of the company’s ecosystem. Journalists take the time to consult with their sources or protagonists of events.
Likewise, the newsrooms that are part of this federal news network are constantly trained in this matter. Periodically, the staff participates in various Google and Facebook courses, and in journalistic initiatives delivered by Chequeado, the leading fact-checking site in Argentina.
At the beginning of 2019, ViaPaís and more than 100 other media outlets participated in Reverso, an unprecedented collaborative project in Argentina. It was promoted and coordinated by Chequeado, AFP Factual, First Draft, and Pop-Up Newsroom to combat misinformation during the last electoral process in the country.
A team of three journalists conducted extensive training on the working methods used by Chequeado and then performed various news checks. Once the project was completed, they put together an explanatory video to share the skills learned with the rest of ViaPaís’ newsrooms. The newsrooms, then, began to take a more critical look before publishing content.
The Reverso experience was positive and enhancing. That is why ViaPaís continued its alliance with Chequeado in 2020 and joined the Federal Network Against Disinformation (RedDES), a collaborative project supported by Facebook that aims to “produce and disseminate verified content that highlights relevant misinformation about COVID-19” and “train journalists in methods and tools for verifying viral information in the context of a pandemic.”
A good example of this happened last July, when several Argentinean media published an alleged scientific article by a Chinese virologist suggesting the coronavirus originated in a laboratory. At ViaPaís, there was a great possibility that this would be published. However, in our newsroom we suspected the veracity of this news, so we consulted with the RedDES team, which then made a verification explaining the document was not published in a scientific journal and clarified that it makes claims that are not supported by data.
This experience with the Chinese virologist’s article shows that sometimes having a small newsroom like ViaPaís has its benefits, because there is better communication than in larger media newsrooms, which means problems like this can be solved more quickly. It also shows information should always be verified even when time is ticking at a news site. This is why every single day we train ourselves to take a critical look and not fall into misinformation.