How much did it cost to refurbish the school? Who paid for the town festival? And which youth centres are on the cross-off list? Citizens in Germany have the right to certain information. But you still have to know how to access this information, and finding your way through the bureaucracy isn’t always easy. Help is now coming from Recherchenetzwerk Correctiv. The group of journalists has opened a ‘Virtual Academy for common-benefit journalism’. The first lesson: rights to information.
It is no coincidence that this journalists’ academy ‘for all’ is starting at this particular point in time. The opening comes at a time when populists are bemoaning the supposed powerlessness of citizens in face of an arrogant elite in politics and the media. This is accompanied by the phenomenon of fake news: untruths disguised as news that often serve propaganda purposes. The journalists from Correctiv want to counteract this. Their message is: citizens are by no means powerless against the state. At the same time the media activists are strengthening trust in professional, independent reporting by showing how serious journalists research and work.
Collaboration with Facebook
But Correctiv is not entirely uncontroversial. The initiative, which is financed mainly by donations and grants from charitable foundations, has just started collaborating with Facebook. The aim is to help uncover fake news in this social network and to label it as such. Facebook works in a similar way together with Associated Press and FactCheck.org in the USA. When Correctiv announced this collaboration at the beginning of 2017, the move was greeted in the social media with both warm approval and strong criticism. heftige Kritik. There were references to censorship and Stasi (secret police) methods. David Schraven, editor-in-chief of Correctiv, defended the involvement: ‘Fake News – especially on Facebook – is already one of the major threats to our society. And we fear that these threats will massively increase over the coming months.’ He said he was pleased that the people in charge of the social network wanted to take action against this. ‘And we are pleased to a part of it.’