Al Jazeera, a Qatari media organisation operating in 70 countries across the world, has its own fact-checking agency called Sanad. It supports hundreds of journalists, helping them to quickly deliver comprehensive and accurate news content.
These journalists needed to regularly fact check sources and connect with the internal editorial team at the Sanad agency. These communications were vital to the success of reporters who require quick answers from remote parts of the world. They were, however, consistently running into a few key issues.
- Email was too slow. When communicating with journalists in the field, email was slow and took too much effort. If a reporter wanted to verify a specific quote or statistic, they had to find a laptop with internet access, upload images, draft and send the email, and then wait for a reply. This led to a lot of back-and-forth and was ultimately too time consuming to fact check sources on the go.
- Responses were all manual. Every request could only be processed by a live agent on weekdays during working hours. Meanwhile, journalists work 24/7, limiting their ability to break timely news.
- Technology was hindering – not helping. Many field reporters work from remote areas with limited access to the internet or even a computer. They needed a solution that was not only faster and automated, but also far more mobile-friendly and operable on low-bandwidth.
In addition to processing fact-checking requests more efficiently, the editorial team wanted to empower journalists to easily search Sanad’s newsfeed, and they wanted to increase engagement with their email newsletter content. Ultimately, they wanted to support these journalists through a channel that was more convenient, available around the clock, and easier to use.
The Sanad team introduced 24/7 support via WhatsApp Business as a new way for journalists to send and receive communications with Al Jazeera newsrooms. They saw immediate benefits.
Increased reach of daily newsletters
The Al Jazeera fact-checking agency now sends two daily newsletters to their journalists through WhatsApp, detailing the latest news stories to be aware of. They also send real-time alerts about news that has been falsified, so journalists are instantly aware of the latest fake news, too.
24/7 search and fact-check support
Journalists can now search for specific news topics and keywords through WhatsApp, making it easier to find supporting articles and facts for their stories. Reporters can also identify fake news directly on WhatsApp by sending links, images, or text messages. If something is not found in the database, the Al Jazeera journalists can send claims-check requests directly to a specialised team for further verification.
Sanad also built a WhatsApp bot that can automatically identify who a reporter is on the broader news team when they first contact the WhatsApp number. Each request is then identified by the reporter’s name and can be looked into later as it is stored in the database.
Reduced first-response time to network of journalists
Journalists can request support through WhatsApp by submitting a ticket in seconds now. The team built specific flows to automatically answer their most recent fact-check questions. Journalists can also request a status update on their tickets in real time instead of waiting for a human response.
Launching WhatsApp as an additional channel to communicate with journalists has helped Al Jazeera immensely. The MessageBird API easily integrates with their team’s internal systems and databases, streamlining their entire fact-finding and newswire operation.
Their goal was to improve fact-checking and ultimately help their team release breaking news, faster. Now, 44% of Al Jazeera’s active journalists use the requests service through WhatsApp, making it Sanad’s fastest growing channel to communicate with journalists and handle support inquiries.
They’ve seen 173% more fact-checking requests come in via WhatsApp in 2022 compared to 2021, and 20% of their overall messages are now handled via WhatsApp.
This has enabled them to provide immediate assistance to journalists and boost overall engagement between their journalists and the Sanad newsroom. It’s helped Al Jazeera’s journalists do their jobs better, no matter where they are in the world.