As most journalists know, many media awards already exist honouring different sorts of journalism from “best sports report” or “best news report” to “best piece of investigative journalism”.

If that traditional sort of report is something you are thinking of entering the African Fact-Checking Awards – a word of advice. Don’t send it here. 

Great traditional reporting is important but what we are looking for is something different. Something new – a great piece of fact-checking journalism.

Is your report a fact-checking report?

Most journalists try to get to the bottom of the story they investigate, but that does not make every report or investigation a fact-check.

The difference is the focus. Traditional reporters try to report accurately what public figures or institutions said. Fact-checkers try to show the accuracy of what was said.

Fact-checking is a new field in journalism and is developing around the world. In 2019, there were 188 fact-checking organisations in more than 60 countries. 

This is what we at Africa Check get up for in the morning. We do it because we think fact-checking makes a difference. Promoting accuracy and honesty in debate helps the public make up their minds using facts.

Does it focus on the accuracy of a claim?

So to win these awards your report must start out by taking a long, hard look at a statement that was made. 

You must rigorously sift the publicly-available evidence for and against. Then you must present your readers or listeners with your conclusions about the accuracy of the claim.

But your report should be fair to the person or institution who made the claim and strict in assessing the evidence. It should also be set out in a way that makes the topic accessible to the widest possible public.

Finally, it should be about a topic that’s important for society at large. Good fact-checking focuses on things that matter.

What fact-checking examples can you follow?

Since Africa Check began work in 2012, we have checked more than 1,500 claims in English and French across the continent. So we have many examples of in-depth fact-checks. And our How to fact-check section gives tips and advice, with more examples. 

Since 2012, over a dozen other independent fact-checking organisations have emerged in Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the DRC and other African countries. Thanks to TRI Facts, our training arm, there has also been an uptake of fact-checking in African newsrooms. We have trained more than 3,100 journalists in fact-checking since 2015.

For inspiration, you can look at some of the reports that won our awards in 2017,  2018 and 2019. A Kenyan pre-election series entitled “Before you vote” fact-checked claims made by politicians in the run-up to the elections. A podcast checked the accuracy of a Beninese minister’s claim that the state had no obligation in clearing public spaces and relocating illegal occupiers. 

And if you want to look outside Africa, there are dozens of examples of great fact-checking on websites such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact and the UK’s Full Fact.

Do this, and you will know what the judges will be looking for again this year: reports that examine a specific claim or claims made by a public figure in Africa, test the evidence and tell the readers whether or not the information can be trusted.

We’re looking for reports – in print, online or on air – that are fair, clear and well-produced. But we also want to see the impact you’ve had by exposing misleading claims on important topics to audiences across the continent.