The Quint fights fake news with WebQoof initiative

Rising menace of misinformation

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Screenshot of WebQoof
Screenshot of WebQoof

Popular digital communication platform WhatsApp has lately been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It has become one of the main channels for the spread of fake news in India. Due to encryption, it is impossible to tell where misinformation has originated and how far it has travelled. A new Indian digital media website, The Quint, is trying take on this menace with its own fact-checking initiative and with the help of its readers.

Debunking false news with readers

The Quint launched its fact-checking initiative, WebQoof, last year. It’s a newsroom-wide effort, with journalists producing informative articles and videos about spotting ‘fake news’ and working closely with regional and local media and a handful of fact-checking sites to debunk hoaxes and false claims.

The Quint’s readers are encouraged to submit for verification dubious stories they’ve come across on social media. A single such call to action prompted between 100 and 150 submissions. WebQoof is one of The Quint’s fastest growing segments in terms of readership.

“That’s really where the light at the end of the tunnel is for us, because everything you hear is that people are in their filter bubbles, and that they only want to read stories that confirm their biases,” said Ritu Kapur, co-founder and chief executive officer of The Quint, during the World News Media Congress that took place in Portugal last month.

“But clearly this onslaught of mails that have come to us for verification, and the fact that our fact-checking stories get such high consumption, is very reassuring because it sort of flies in the face of everything we’ve presumed on how people just want to believe fake stories,” Kapur said.

By involving readers in its fact-checking efforts, The Quint has gained access to hundreds of unverified claims on WhatsApp, allowing staffers to fact-check claims that otherwise might have flown under their radar.

Via its own WhatsApp channel, the outlet feeds many verified stories back onto the platform. “The challenge was how do we make the fact-checked content accessible, because false news is simple to consume. It travels very easily, whereas fact-checking and truth is more complicated,” Kapur said. “So you’ve got to make the verified news as exciting to read as the viral false news. We’ve been working on that, without in any way taking away from the fact-checking.”

The Quint uses the resource-intensive tactic of dispatching its own journalists to check hoaxes in-person whenever possible.

The next big challenge

Currently, The Quint is preparing for its next challenge: countering the expected spike in misinformation in the run-up to India’s 2019 general election.

“We plan to get more and more people, readers and viewers actively involved as ‘partners’,” Kapur shared. Additionally, The Quint is building out WebQoof on the Hindi site. It is also looking to partner with media organizations to further expand operations.

The story has inputs from the WAN-IFRA website.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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