The IFCN welcomes new applications to its Code of Principles beginning Jan. 16, 2024. Our website is currently under renovation, so new signatories should begin the application process by emailing their interest to info@ifcn.org with "New Signatory" in the subject line.

Wisconsin Watch

Organization: Wisconsin Watch
Applicant: Matthew DeFour
Assessor: Margot Susca

Background

See earlier assessment. 

Assessment Conclusion

My concerns submitted last month have been addressed to satisfaction. 

on 15-Aug-2023 (6 months ago)

Margot Susca assesses application as Compliant

A short summary in native publishing language

See earlier assessment. 

Section 1: Eligibility to be a signatory

To be eligible to be a signatory, applicants must meet these six criteria

  • 1.1 The applicant is a legally registered organization, or a distinct team or unit within a legally registered organization, and details of this are easily found on its website.
  • 1.2 The team, unit or organization is set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking.
  • 1.3 The applicant has published an average of at least one fact check a week over the course of the six months prior to the date of application. For applicants from countries with at least 5 or more verified signatories need to have at least a fact check a week over the twelve months of publishing track. Consult to factchecknet@poynter.org for confirmation.
  • 1.4 On average, at least 75% of the applicant’s fact checks focus on claims related to issues that, in the view of the IFCN, relate to or could have an impact on the welfare or well-being of individuals, the general public or society.
  • 1.5 The applicant’s editorial output is not, in the view of the IFCN, controlled by the state, a political party or politician.
  • 1.6 If the organization receives funding from local or foreign state or political sources, it provides a statement on its site setting out to the satisfaction of the IFCN, how it ensures its funders do not influence the findings of its reports.

Criteria 1.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please explain where on your website you set out information about your organization’s legal status and how this complies with criteria. Attach a link to the relevant page of your website.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

This information is contained under "Tax returns and financial statements" on Wisconsin Watch's website: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/tax-returns/

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Wisconsin Watch through its pilot with Gigafact would make it eligible, and its fact briefs work has been set up exclusively for the purposes of fact checking. However, that partnership will form part of my critique of other parts of the application, which are noted elsewhere. 


done_all 1.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.2
Proof you meet criteria
Please answer the following questions – (see notes in Guidelines for Application on how to answer)

 1. When and why was your fact-checking operation started?
 2. How many people work or volunteer in the organization and what are their roles?
 3. What different activities does your organization carry out?
 4. What are the goals of your fact-checking operation over the coming year?

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

1. We began publishing fact briefs in September 2022 after Gigafact offered to pilot its short fact briefs with three members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. We were among the three who tried out the approach, and we have found it very successful. Attached is a a report I prepared early in the pilot project. Note that the early versions of fact briefs were 140 words. That has since been increased to 150 words. These items have become some of the best-read on Wisconsin Watch's website, https://www.wisconsinwatch.org.

2. We have roughly two dozen employees of Wisconsin Watch. Their names and roles are listed here: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/staff/ Fact briefs are produced by interns and freelancers whose names appear with each fact check. Currently, freelancers Jacob Alabab-Moser and Tom Kertscher (long-time PolitiFact reporter) produce fact briefs for Wisconsin Watch.

3. Wisconsin Watch is a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit (501(c)3) news outlet that distributes its content to editors in Wisconsin and beyond. In addition to reporting, writing and distributing in-depth and investigative news stories, we also produce short, 150-word fact briefs in partnership with Gigafact, which developed the platform and provides technical and editorial support. We also have a service journalism project, News414, which provides information of interest via SMS text and social media to residents of Milwaukee's most underserved neighborhoods. 

4. A top goal is to achieve sustainability for our fact-checking operations. Currently, we and Gigafact are paying all costs for the operation. We are fundraising along with Gigafact to find stable revenue sources to support fact briefs, which have become among the most viewed items on our website. We have seen the value in these types of bite-sized fact briefs in shaping public debate, informing the electorate and serving the information needs of the public at a time of rampant disinformation. We would love to be able to continue producing about 5-7 of these briefs each week, especially as Wisconsin is poised to once again become a central player in the 2024 U.S. presidential election — and our residents targets of millions of dollars in misleading political advertising and false information spread through social media. 

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf Gigafact report for... (2 MB)
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I mark Criteria 1.2 compliant. 


done_all 1.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.3
Proof you meet criteria
- The applicant has published an average of at least one fact check a week over the course of the six months prior to the date of application.
- For applicants from countries with at least 5 or more verified signatories need to have at least a fact check a week over the twelve months of publishing track.
- Consult to factchecknet@poynter.org for confirmation.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

As of June 27, 2023, Wisconsin Watch has produced 280 fact briefs. (See attachment). Here is a link to all of the fact briefs we have published on our site: https://wisconsinwatch.org/series/fact-briefs/ 

We realize that the United States has more than five verified signatories. We respectfully request a waiver of the 12-month requirement for the following reasons:

- Wisconsin Watch has published far in excess of 1 (one) fact check a week since launching in September 2022

- Wisconsin will be a target of significant dis- and misinformation in the coming year as a swing state in the consequential 2024 U.S. presidential election. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-06-... (781 KB)
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Wisconsin Watch's fact briefs launched less than one year ago, but since then it has contributed fact checks on a range of issues IFCN would consider important to a healthier media ecosystem. These will be assessed in Criteria 1.4. 


done_all 1.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will assess compliance through a review of the fact checks published over the previous three months. No additional information required.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago


Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

July 13: Did Gov. Tony Evers veto tax cuts for people earning over $36,000 per year?

July 7: Did US Rep. Derrick Van Orden confront the staff of a Wisconsin library over a display of LGBTQ+ books?

June 9: Has President Joe Biden only nominated five white men for federal judgeships as of June 2023?

June 2: Was Wisconsin’s public school spending the third-slowest growing in the nation between 2002 and 2020?

May 5: Will taxes ‘automatically’ go up for 95% of business owners after the Trump tax cuts expire?

I reviewed the five fact checks listed above plus others included in the application, and noting a range of political parties, issues, and concerns covered and explained, I mark Criteria 1.4 compliant. 


done_all 1.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.5
Proof you meet criteria
Please explain any commercial, financial and/or institutional relationship your organization has to the state, politicians or political parties in the country or countries you cover. Also explain funding or support received from foreign as well as local state or political actors over the previous financial year.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

Although we are housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we receive no financial support directly from the university or the state of Wisconsin. Our offices are provided for free as part of a facilities-use agreement in which we agree to employ a minimum number of UW-Madison students as paid interns and to serve as guest lecturers upon request for School of Journalism & Mass Communication classes. We also receive free office space at Marquette University under an informal arrangement as part of our partnership with the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, which is also housed at Marquette. (We partner with Milwaukee NNS on our News414 public service journalism project.) We also are part of a UW-Madison-led research project into how journalists can effectively counter disinformation. Funding for that research project comes from the National Science Foundation. We are using the funding to pay for a full-time disinformation reporter who will produce stories about disinformation while being studied by the researchers. (This is separate from our fact-checking operation.) The goal of the research is to study how three outlets (Wisconsin Watch, The Capital Times and Snopes) handle mis- and disinformation and then measure the impact of those strategies, with the ultimate goal of developing an online tool and useful guidelines to help journalists counteract false information. We do not accept funding from political parties, current office holders (partisan or nonpartisan) or special interest groups.

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf UW WCIJ Facilities U... (5 MB)
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Criteria 1.5 is compliant. Although the University of Wisconsin is a state school, I would not consider this a state-funded relationship.  


done_all 1.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.6
Proof you meet criteria
If you confirmed the organization receives funding from local or foreign state or political sources, provide a link to where on your website you set out how you ensure the editorial independence of your work.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Criteria 1.6 is compliant as its editorial independence is clearly explained. 


done_all 1.6 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 2: A commitment to Non-partisanship and Fairness

To be compliant on nonpartisanship and fairness, applicants must meet these five criteria

  • 2.1 The applicant fact-checks using the same high standards of evidence and judgement for equivalent claims regardless of who made the claim.
  • 2.2 The applicant does not unduly concentrate its fact-checking on any one side, considers the reach and importance of claims it selects to check and publishes a short statement on its website to set out how it selects claims to check.
  • 2.3 The applicant discloses in its fact checks relevant interests of the sources it quotes where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided. It also discloses in its fact checks any commercial or other such relationships it has that a member of the public might reasonably conclude could influence the findings of the fact check.
  • 2.4 The applicant is not as an organization affiliated with nor declares or shows support for any party, any politician or political candidate, nor does it advocate for or against any policy positions on any issues save for transparency and accuracy in public debate.
  • 2.5 The applicant sets out its policy on non-partisanship for staff on its site. Save for the issues of accuracy and transparency, the applicant’s staff do not get involved in advocacy or publicise their views on policy issues the organization might fact check in such a way as might lead a reasonable member of the public to see the organization’s work as biased.

Criteria 2.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please share links to 10 fact checks published over the past year that you believe demonstrate your non-partisanship.
Please briefly explain how the fact checks selected show that (I) you use the same high standards of evidence for equivalent claims, (II) follow the same essential process for every fact check and (III) let the evidence dictate your conclusions.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

We are suggesting links to 10 fact briefs that show Wisconsin Watch's commitment to non-partisanship (See attachment below). The first two involve the sitting governor, Democrat Tony Evers, and his predecessor, Republican Gov. Scott Walker. In the first fact brief, we affirm a critique that Evers, the former state Superintendent of Public Instruction, blocked additional literacy tests for school children. In the second one, we knock down the allegation that Walker introduced a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In the third brief, we affirm the controversial — but true — allegation that supporters of liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz offered voters $250 to encourage others to vote. In the fourth fact brief, we confirm another controversial allegation — that her conservative opponent, Dan Kelly, compared Social Security and affirmative action to slavery. In the fifth and sixth briefs, we fact check the stances of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, both rejecting and confirming claims made against him. Similarly, we affirm and reject claims made against his opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. In the final two fact checks, we examine claims against both Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, running for re-election next year, and her top-ranked opponent, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. (I) As you can see, we use the same types of standards for claims made by and against candidates and office holders, regardless of party or political leaning. (II) Each fact check relies on multiple primary sources. (III) And in each one, the "yes" or "no" answer relies entirely on the evidence we have gathered from reliable and transparent sources that we list with the fact check. 

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf Suggested fact brief... (29 KB)
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

done_all 2.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.2
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to a place on your website where you explain how you select claims to check, explaining how you ensure you do not unduly concentrate your fact-checking on any one side, and how you consider the reach and importance of the claims you select to check.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I mark Criteria 2.2 compliant as this is clearly labeled on its website under the headline: "How Wisconsin Watch checks claims for its Gigafact fact briefs" which may be found here: https://wisconsinwatch.org/2023/05/how-wisconsin-watch-checks-claims-for-its-gigafact-fact-briefs/. 


done_all 2.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.3
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will assess compliance through a review of the fact checks published over the previous year. No additional information required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Will taxes ‘automatically’ go up for 95% of business owners after the Trump tax cuts expire?

Fact check notes the 2017 tax under former Republican president Donald Trump. 



done_all 2.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will assess compliance through a review of the fact checks published over the previous year. No additional information required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago
Did Gov. Evers declare a state of emergency because of wildfires?


The fact check is in response to online chatter related to the Democratic governor's responsiveness to natural disasters. 


done_all 2.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.5
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to a place on your website where you publish a statement setting out your policy on non-partisanship for staff and how it ensures the organization meets this criteria.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

In addition to Wisconsin Watch's policy on non-partisanship for staff and in our journalism, https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/ethics/ we also abide by the editorial standards of our partner Gigafact, which reviews each fact brief to ensure compliance with its standards. (Attached below)

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf Gigafact Editorial G... (142 KB)
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I mark Criteria 2.5 compliant as its nonpartisanship is clearly noted online and any reasonable person would see its work and that policy and understand its neutral stance. 


done_all 2.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 3: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Sources

To be compliant on sources, applicants must meet these four criteria

  • 3.1 The applicant identifies the source of all significant evidence used in their fact checks, providing relevant links where the source is available online, in such a way that users can replicate their work if they wish. In cases where identifying the source would compromise the source’s personal security, the applicant provides as much detail as compatible with the source’s safety.
  • 3.2 The applicant uses the best available primary, not secondary, sources of evidence wherever suitable primary sources are available. Where suitable primary sources are not available, the applicant explains the use of a secondary source.
  • 3.3 The applicant checks all key elements of claims against more than one named source of evidence save where the one source is the only source relevant on the topic.
  • 3.4 The applicant identifies in its fact checks the relevant interests of the sources it uses where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided.

Criteria 3.1
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I mark Criteria 3.1 compliant because Wisconsin Watch's fact brief's sources pack a lot in a short brief. Using the Gov. Evers/wildfire item used above, the sources used to confirm included a State of Wisconsin news release; a Department of Natural Resources warning; a Department of Natural Resources wildfire risk assessment; and an executive order from the governor's office. A screen shot is included of what those sources would look like with hyperlinks for the reader. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-07-... (73 KB)
done_all 3.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 3.2
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Assessing the July 13 item headlined "Did Gov. Tony Evers veto tax cuts for people earning over $36,000 per year?" writer Tom Kertscher explained that yes the Democratic governor did veto cuts. Sources included two sites from the Wisconsin State Legislature and the the Associated Press. Screen shot included as above. As such, I mark Criteria 3.1 compliant. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-07-... (53 KB)
done_all 3.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 3.3
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I assessed the May 12 fact check headlined "Are Black people four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana in Wisconsin?" and mark Criteria 3.3 compliant based on that review, but I would urge caution that Wisconsin Watch not over-rely on its own reporting when relying on sourcing for its fact checks. Here, three sources were used including two primary sources and a link to the Wisconsin Watch story on the subject. I would flag that the fact check team should be as separate from the news team as ads used to be from editorial.  

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-07-... (55 KB)
done_all 3.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 3.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I reviewed the March 31 fact check item headlined "Can disabled Wisconsin voters have someone help them with voting?" and based on this review mark Criteria 3.4 compliant. Several state resources were consulting on accessible voting and voting for folks with disabilities. 


Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-07-... (59 KB)
done_all 3.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 4: A commitment to Transparency of Funding & Organization

To be compliant on funding and organization, applicants must meet these five criteria

  • 4.1 Applicants that are independent organizations have a page on their website detailing each source of funding accounting for 5% or more of total revenue for its previous financial year. This page also sets out the legal form in which the organization is registered (e.g. as a non-profit, as a company etc).
  • 4.2 Applicants that are the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization make a statement on ownership.
  • 4.3 A statement on the applicant’s website sets out the applicant’s organizational structure and makes clear how and by whom editorial control is exercised.
  • 4.4 A page on the applicant’s website details the professional biography of all those who, according to the organizational structure and play a significant part in its editorial output.
  • 4.5 The applicant provides easy means on its website and/or via social media for users to communicate with the editorial team.

Criteria 4.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please confirm whether you are an ‘independent organization’
or ‘the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization’ and share proof of this organizational status.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

We meet both criteria. Fact briefs are a fact-checking section or unit of Wisconsin Watch, which is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit investigative news outlet.

Wisconsin Watch
20-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

We meet both criteria. Fact Briefs are a fact-checking section or unit of Wisconsin Watch, which is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit investigative news outlet. We partner with Gigafact to produce the Fact Briefs. Wisconsin Watch determines which statements to fact check, conducts original reporting, edits each Fact Brief and posts the completed Fact Brief to its website. Gigafact is also an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization. Gigafact developed the Fact Brief format, provides a platform for writing and editing Fact Briefs and does some backstop editing on the Fact Briefs before publishing them to its website along with Fact Briefs from other partner organizations. The arrangement is similar to Politifact. Wisconsin Watch is not applying to IFCN on behalf of Gigafact.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

As I noted in the first sections of this assessment, the partnership with Gigafact on Fact Briefs is what brought Wisconsin Watch into the space of fact checking, and it's here that I have questions about the transparency of funding and organization (as well as staffing). Throughout its opening criteria, the applicant refers numerous times to that partnership “We are fundraising along with Gigafact” and “we also produce short, 150-word fact briefs in partnership with Gigafact.” 

Its website, which I've attached a screen shot of, notes this partnership, too. No one who studies nonprofit news can doubt the importance of collaboration, but for the purposes of applying the IFCN criteria to ONE applicant–in this case Wisconsin Watch–it becomes murkier as which independent organization and structure is being reviewed. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-07-... (104 KB)
cancel 4.1 marked as Request change by Margot Susca.
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Aug-2023 (6 months ago)

As I noted in the first sections of this assessment, the partnership with Gigafact on Fact Briefs is what brought Wisconsin Watch into the space of fact checking, and it's here that I have questions about the transparency of funding and organization (as well as staffing). Throughout its opening criteria, the applicant refers numerous times to that partnership “We are fundraising along with Gigafact” and “we also produce short, 150-word fact briefs in partnership with Gigafact.” 

Its website, which I've attached a screen shot of, notes this partnership, too. No one who studies nonprofit news can doubt the importance of collaboration, but for the purposes of applying the IFCN criteria to ONE applicant–in this case Wisconsin Watch–it becomes murkier as which independent organization and structure is being reviewed. 


done_all 4.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.2
Proof you meet criteria
If your organization is an “independent organization”, please share a link to the page on your website where you detail your funding and indicate the legal form in which the organization is registered (e.g. as a non-profit, as a company etc).
If your organization is “the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization”, please share a link to the statement on your website about your ownership.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

Here is our funding page link: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/  Here is an explanation of how we protect the independence of our journalism when it comes to funding sources: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/fundraising-policy/ And here are our tax forms showing nonprofit status and financial statements: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/tax-returns/



Wisconsin Watch
20-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Here is our funding page link: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/  Here is an explanation of how we protect the independence of our journalism when it comes to funding sources: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/fundraising-policy/ Here are our tax forms showing nonprofit status and financial statements: https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/funding/tax-returns/ And here is an explanation of our Fact Brief process: https://wisconsinwatch.org/2023/05/how-wisconsin-watch-checks-claims-for-its-gigafact-fact-briefs/


Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

My issue with Criteria 4.2 is the same as 4.1. It's not a concern about the independence of Wisconsin Watch or its independence and trustworthiness in the nonprofit news ecosystem, but rather how its partnership with Gigafact impacts its funding and its staffing. I regret that it's just not clear to me in this application. 


cancel 4.2 marked as Request change by Margot Susca.
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Aug-2023 (6 months ago)

My issue with Criteria 4.2 is the same as 4.1. It's not a concern about the independence of Wisconsin Watch or its independence and trustworthiness in the nonprofit news ecosystem, but rather how its partnership with Gigafact impacts its funding and its staffing. I regret that it's just not clear to me in this application. 


done_all 4.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.3
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to where on your website you set out your organizational structure, making clear how and by whom editorial control is exercised.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

Here is our staff page, which lists editorial staff and their responsibilities. https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/staff/

Editorial decisions are made by the managing editor (me) and executive director, Andy Hall. Wisconsin Watch is undergoing a transition, as I intend to retire June 30 and Andy will become co-founder at large, retiring on Dec. 31. Nevertheless, decisions about what and how to cover news and fact briefs will continue to be in the hands of the editorial team, including the associate director, Coburn Dukehart, the deputy managing editor, Jim Malewitz, the statehouse bureau chief, Matthew DeFour, and eventually the new managing editor. Beginning July 1, Wisconsin Watch's fact-checking operation will be run by DeFour. He can be reached at mdefour@wisconsinwatch.org. 

Wisconsin Watch
20-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Here is our staff page, which lists editorial staff and their responsibilities. https://wisconsinwatch.org/about/staff/

Editorial decisions are made by associate director Coburn Dukehart, deputy managing editor Jim Malewitz and statehouse bureau chief Matthew DeFour in consultation with interim executive director Barbara Johnson. DeFour directly oversees selection and editing of Fact Briefs. Wisconsin Watch pays two freelancers, Tom Kertscher and Jacob Alabab-Moser, to identify and write Fact Briefs. Once written and edited, the Fact Briefs are submitted to Gigafact for a final backstop edit and posting to its website. Gigafact employs the backstop editor, who may flag a Fact Brief if it lacks clarity or would be confusing to a national audience. If any issues arise, the Fact Brief is returned to Wisconsin Watch for further review. Once published by Gigafact, Wisconsin Watch then publishes the Fact Brief on its website using its own publishing platform. Gigafact conducts weekly meetings with partner organizations to discuss any issues that came up during the backstop editing process.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I don't wish to minimize the expertise Wisconsin Watch's staff bring to nonprofit news. But, the fact checking/fact brief staff needs to be delineated from the news staff, and editorial control over the fact briefs needs to be explained as a separate entity from Wisconsin Watch. 

Jacob Alabab-Moser and Tom Kertscher's bios both mention "they contribute[s] to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online." It's the only mention on the staff page of Gigafact. Having a separate section on fact briefs or some mention allows you to explain that Gigafact partnership and how the staff contributes. 

[I note the tipline in Criteria 5.6 runs through a Gigafact URL that lands at Wisconsin Watch. The landing page notes the tipline is "powered by Gigafact" so I would ask which WW staffers have editorial control over what is being fact checked/chosen to be fact checked if it first runs through Gigafact, which is not an IFCN signatory.]


cancel 4.3 marked as Request change by Margot Susca.
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Aug-2023 (6 months ago)

I don't wish to minimize the expertise Wisconsin Watch's staff bring to nonprofit news. But, the fact checking/fact brief staff needs to be delineated from the news staff, and editorial control over the fact briefs needs to be explained as a separate entity from Wisconsin Watch. 

Jacob Alabab-Moser and Tom Kertscher's bios both mention "they contribute[s] to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online." It's the only mention on the staff page of Gigafact. Having a separate section on fact briefs or some mention allows you to explain that Gigafact partnership and how the staff contributes. 

[I note the tipline in Criteria 5.6 runs through a Gigafact URL that lands at Wisconsin Watch. The landing page notes the tipline is "powered by Gigafact" so I would ask which WW staffers have editorial control over what is being fact checked/chosen to be fact checked if it first runs through Gigafact, which is not an IFCN signatory.]


done_all 4.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.4
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to where on your website you set out the professional biographies of those who play a significant part in your organization’s editorial output.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Setting aside my concerns noted above, the professional biographies of the Wisconsin Watch staff and the contributors to the fact briefs are clearly labeled. As such, I mark Criteria 4.4 compliant. 


done_all 4.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.5
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to where on your website you encourage users to communicate with your editorial team.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

At the top of our fact briefs page we list an email (factbriefs@wisconsinwatch.org) to reach the editors responsible for the fact-checking operation. https://wisconsinwatch.org/series/fact-briefs/ 

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I confirm the email address listed encourages readers to communicate with the editorial team. As such, I mark Criteria 4.5 compliant. 


done_all 4.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 5: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Methodology

To be compliant on methodology, applicants must meet these six criteria

  • 5.1 The applicant publishes on its website a statement about the methodology it uses to select, research, write and publish its fact checks.
  • 5.2 The applicant selects claims to check based primarily on the reach and importance of the claims, and where possible explains the reason for choosing the claim to check.
  • 5.3 The applicant sets out in its fact checks relevant evidence that appears to support the claim as well as relevant evidence that appears to undermine it.
  • 5.4 The applicant in its fact checks assesses the merits of the evidence found using the same high standards applied to evidence on equivalent claims, regardless of who made the claim.
  • 5.5 The applicant seeks where possible to contact those who made the claim to seek supporting evidence, noting that (I) this is often not possible with online claims, (II) if the person who makes the claim fails to reply in a timely way this should not impede the fact check, (III) if a speaker adds caveats to the claim, the fact-checker should be free to continue with checking the original claim, (IV) fact-checkers may not wish to contact the person who made the claim for safety or other legitimate reasons.
  • 5.6 The applicant encourages users to send in claims to check, while making it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable.

Criteria 5.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please provide a link to the statement on your website that explains the methodology you use to select, research, write and publish your fact checks.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

https://wisconsinwatch.org/2023/05/how-wisconsin-watch-checks-claims-for-its-gigafact-fact-briefs/ Attached below is a screen shot of the location on our home page where we encourage the audience to send in claims and which claims we can and cannot check. Here is the link to our tip line: https://gigafact.org/tipline?org_id=3181&utm_medium=website&utm_source=wisconsinwatch

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Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

The applicant explains online that it chooses to addressed what it calls "widely circulating claims" online "that can be answered yes or no." Further, online Dee Hall wrote, "Our objective is to verify facts, not debate political opinions. We strive to separate the claim (the fact) from the claimant (the individual or organization that is using it). We occasionally do spot-checks to ensure that we are achieving as much partisan/political balance as possible." They also encourages engagement with the audience on the issues that could be fact checked.

As such, I mark Criteria 5.1 compliant. 


done_all 5.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.2
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I reviewed the aforementioned "Did US Rep. Derrick Van Orden confront the staff of a Wisconsin library over a display of LGBTQ+ books?" The fact brief outlines how the Republican representing Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional district questioned library staff about a display of LGBTQ books in 2021. It reviewed news articles and statements including interviews with librarians and those in attendance. It also noted the event happened before Van Orden was elected to Congress. 

As such, I mark Crtieria 5.2 compliant. 


done_all 5.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.3
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

To judge compliance with Criteria 5.3 I reviewed the July 3 item headlined "Did a Gallup poll find that nearly one in five members of Gen Z identify as LGBT?" To explain its Yes rating, Fact Brief went through the Gallup results of the poll conducted in February 2023, which surveyed 10,000 Gen Z respondents. Of those, more than 13 percent identified as bisexual, 3 percent identified as gay, nearly 2 percent identified as transgender, and 1.5 percent identified as "other, which included queer and pansexual. The item also turned to an April 2023 report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which included data from 2021 showing more than one quarter of U.S. high school students identified as a category other than heterosexual. 

As such, I mark this criteria compliant. 


done_all 5.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

For Criteria 5.4, I assess the June 9 item headlined "Has President Joe Biden only nominated five white men for federal judgeships as of June 2023?" To come to its No rating, Fact Briefs explained that Biden nominated 127 people to federal judgeships including 13 white men who had been confirmed by the US Senate. The author explained they used a federal database of the Federal Judicial Center to name the men and further explained that as of January 2023, nearly half of the federal judiciary was comprised of white men, citing a nonprofit newsroom. 

As such, I mark this item compliant. 


done_all 5.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.5
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

For the final item to assess methodology, I assessed the May 8 item headlined "Does the Republican-authored shared revenue bill propose banning advisory referendums at the local level in Wisconsin?" To draw its Yes conclusion, the author explained that: "The shared revenue bill proposed by Wisconsin Republicans would prohibit a county or municipality from holding an advisory referendum, according to a draft of bill released May 2." But the author stated that the Democratic governor had noted he planned to veto any legislation that moved to his desk. The legislative sources are clearly labeled and the implications and steps are clearly marked in the brief. 

As such, I mark Criteria 5.5 as compliant. 


done_all 5.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.6
Proof you meet criteria
Please describe how you encourage users to send in claims to check, while making it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable. Include links where appropriate. If you do not allow this, explain why.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

Here is the link to our tipline: https://gigafact.org/tipline?org_id=3181&utm_medium=website&utm_source=wisconsinwatch and below is a screen shot about what we can and cannot fact check.

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Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

The site is clear on what types of items would be fact check-able. As such, I mark Criteria 5.6 as compliant. 



done_all 5.6 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 6: A commitment to an Open & Honest Corrections Policy

To be compliant on corrections policy, applicants must meet these five criteria

  • 6.1 The applicant has a corrections or complaints policy that is easily visible and accessible on the organization’s website or frequently referenced in broadcasts.
  • 6.2 The policy sets out clear definitions of what it does and does not cover, how major mistakes, especially those requiring revised conclusions of a fact check, are handled, and the fact that some complaints may justify no response. This policy is adhered to scrupulously.
  • 6.3 Where credible evidence is provided that the applicant has made a mistake worthy of correction, the applicant makes a correction openly and transparently, seeking as far as possible to ensure that users of the original see the correction and the corrected version.
  • 6.4 The applicant, if an existing signatory, should either on its corrections/complaints page or on the page where it declares itself an IFCN signatory inform users that if they believe the signatory is violating the IFCN Code, they may inform the IFCN, with a link to the IFCN site.
  • 6.5 If the applicant is the fact-checking unit of a media company, it is a requirement of signatory status that the parent media company has and adheres to an open and honest corrections policy.

Criteria 6.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please provide a link to where you publish on your website your corrections or complaints policy. If you are primarily a broadcaster, please provide evidence you frequently reference your corrections policy in broadcasts.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

The corrections and clarification policy is clear and it invites readers to submit items for fixing. As such, I mark Criteria 6.1 compliant. 


done_all 6.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.2
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the corrections policy to verify it meets critera. No additional information needed.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago


Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

The corrections and clarifications policy is shown in the attached screen shot. It demonstrated compliance. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2023-07-... (80 KB)
done_all 6.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.3
Proof you meet criteria
Please provide a short statement about how the policy was adhered to over the previous year (or six months if this is the first application) including evidence of two examples of the responses provided by the applicant to a correction request over the previous year. Where no correction request has been made in the previous year, you must state this in your application, which will be publicly available in the assessment if your application is successful.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

This example was from more than six months ago, but it was one of the only times that I can recall we were asked to modify a fact brief. In this situation, a member of the Mandela Barnes campaign contacted us within a matter of minutes after we posted a fact brief about Ron Johnson's ties to the pharmaceutical industry and donations to both Johnson's and Barnes' campaigns from health-care related people or businesses. I quickly reviewed the source she provided, and we modified our fact brief in accordance with the newly acquired information. Because this was more of a clarification than a correction, we did not label it as a correction. Here is the final fact brief: https://wisconsinwatch.org/2022/11/did-ron-johnson-say-that-he-has-always-been-a-supporter-of-big-pharma/ Attached below is the correspondence I had with the Barnes campaign. 

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picture_as_pdf Wisconsin Center for... (98 KB)
Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

Criteria 6.3 is compliant as the applicant has demonstrated it meets its corrections/clarifications policy. 


done_all 6.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.4
Proof you meet criteria
If you are an existing signatory, please provide a link to show where on your site you inform users that if they believe you are violating the IFCN Code, they may inform the IFCN of this, with a link to the complaints page on the IFCN site.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

N/A. We are not current signatories.

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

They are not an existing signatory. 


done_all 6.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.5
Proof you meet criteria
If you are the fact-checking unit of a media company, please provide a link to the parent media company’s honest and open corrections policy and provide evidence that it adheres to this.

Wisconsin Watch
27-Jun-2023 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

Our corrections policy is listed here: https://wisconsinwatch.org/corrections/ An example of adherence to this policy is cited in criteria 6.3. Another example of this policy in action is this story (not a fact brief) from Wisconsin Watch: https://wisconsinwatch.org/2022/10/toxic-chemicals-in-mississippi-river/ One reason we have so few corrections both in our fact briefs and in our news stories is that all Wisconsin Watch-produced content is meticulously fact-checked. Here is a description of our extensive fact-checking process: https://wisconsinwatch.org/fact-checking/ Beyond that, when it comes to fact briefs, each brief is both fact-checked AND edited two times - once by a Wisconsin Watch editor and another time by the Gigafact editorial director. That minimizes the opportunity for error. 

Margot Susca Assessor
15-Jul-2023 (7 months ago) Updated: 7 months ago

I mark Criteria 6.5 compliant. 


done_all 6.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.