Opinion · Ahora que no nos oye nadie

This is how the editorial transparency calculator of ‘Público’ works

The transparency calculator is part of the TJ Tool that allows you to assess the traceability of each piece of information; that is to say, the degree of detail that the reader receives about the informative process that the journalist has followed to produce that news item.

This transparency value should never be confused with the quality of the information. A piece of investigative journalism, usually highly valued and respected in the profession and by the public, is often forced to resort to sources whose identity should be protected. Since the journalist cannot reveal their source the value of such information, in terms of transparency, would be minimal. In these cases, it is the journalists and the publication, with their professionalism and approach to quality journalism, who vouch for the information. However, the use of anonymous sources should always be the last resort of the publication, which should always try to guarantee the greatest possible traceability of the information it publishes.

Imagen del 'mapa de transparencia' de TJTool.
TJTool’s Transparency map.

The transparency calculator created by Público extracts from each piece of information, in a semiautomatic way and aided by artificial intelligence, a series of variables that make up the eight Indicators of Editorial Transparency (IET). In order to show these variables on the Transparency Map of the news item, Público assigns a percentage value to each IET and a value range to each variable that makes up the indicators. In this way, the sum of the maximum values of the eight IETs is 100%.

The calculator does not just produce a numerical measurement. In the IET validation process it takes into account that all the contributing elements are pertinent and relevant.  That is to say, just because a piece of information has 10 links, does not mean that its traceability and transparency indicator will be extremely high.

Once the calculator has assessed all the indicators, it produces the final transparency value and automatically generates a Transparency Map for each news item, which is accessible to any user.

Of the eight Indicators of Editorial Transparency, Público has assigned the heaviest weighting in the final transparency value to Sources: 20%. The publication of the Media’s editorial policy, the editorial Motive for publishing the article and the Author contribute another 15%, respectively. The Context documents, publication Dates and Support Documents each contribute 10%, and the Place of writing, 5% of the total value. Thus, the final assessment and Transparency Map of each piece of information depend on these parameters:

  1. Sources: we consider that this element should have the greatest weighting in the traceability value of a piece of information in our calculator: up to 20%. A great deal of thought has also been given to classifying the sources in terms of transparency, and how to assign them different weightings. In the end, the Source categories established by Público are: Person, Institution or Organization, Other Media/Agencies, Unnamed sources with names and Anonymous sources.
  2. Author: This refers to the name of the professional who signs the news item, whose experience and professionalism gives credit to his name.  This can contribute up to 15% of the total transparency value, depending on whether the full name is given, if it is signed only with initials, or if the signature is generic (‘Newsroom’ or ‘Público’).
  3. Motive: This refers to the reasons why the media decides to use this piece of information.  In the case of Público, the reasons may be: informative news, because it is connected to one of the priority editorial subjects of the publication, or it is trending in social media networks.  Similarly, it must take into account if it is sponsored content.  This indicator contributes 15% to the final assessment, regardless of the motive chosen.
  4. Media: The maximum transparency value of this indicator is up to 15% of the total.  It is calculated based on whether the publication makes its editorial policy public or not, and if, in this editorial policy, it declares its ethical and journalistic principles and objectives, as well as its ownership structure and the sources of its income, including the percentage represented by institutional advertising.  Público has published its editorial policy with the Trust Project and in its web page.
  5. Support Documents: These are the evidence that the author attaches to support the published information.  They could be in the form of video, photographs, audio, pdf, social media network items, etc.  They contribute up to 10% of the total transparency value.
  6. Context: This is complementary information that locates the piece of information in space and time, to give value to its importance.  The context is one of the essential elements of journalism that is suffering the most in the new professional environment.  These documents also contribute up to 10% to the total transparency value.  Context elements that are considered to fulfil this function include information in the form of links to websites, images and documents.
  7. Date: This refers both to the date of publication, and to subsequent updates of the news (if any), and the date that must accompany the context documents or elements.  This indicator contributes up to 10% of the final transparency value.  Público considers Date especially relevant, given that one of the tricks most used in the generation of fake news is the attribution of manipulated dates to biased images and information.  This does not just weaken the strict informative value of the piece of information, but it immediately becomes a lie.
  1. Place: Público considers that, in terms of transparency, declaring the place where the piece of information is written adds a constant value of 5%. However, in the process of developing this tool, the ‘Place’ indicator has been one of the subjects that has caused a lot of consideration among the editorial team and its final value is currently under review.