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Debunked: No, TheJournal.ie is not closing down

We’re extremely happy to be able to debunk this one.

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THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC has led to a huge increase in the volume of false information being shared on WhatsApp and social media across Ireland. 

TheJournal.ie has been debunking this misinformation since late February to stop false news from being shared – but it’s unusual for us to have to debunk a story about ourselves.

Late on Thursday night, a rumour began to spread on Twitter and WhatsApp that TheJournal.ie was closing down. 

At 8.40pm, a tweet was sent from an account without any connection to Journal Media – the parent company of TheJournal.ie – which said that the last ever Zoom meeting of TheJournal.ie had just taken place. 

Four minutes later, an anonymous Twitter account responded to this tweet with a screengrab of a letter purporting to be from the company which said that TheJournal.ie was closing down this Monday. 

Within minutes, the letter was tweeted out by a several other accounts and shared in an unknown number of WhatsApp groups. 

The letter, which has several spelling and grammatical errors, blames the “economic changes within the Irish media industry” for the closure. 

tj letter

The letter is untrue. TheJournal.ie is not closing down. 

“I can confirm that this alleged letter is a fake,” said Susan Daly, managing editor of Journal Media. 

TheJournal.ie is fully operational and the news team will continue to work hard to bring our audience the best-quality information throughout this Covid-19 crisis and beyond, including our award-winning factchecking project.” 

It is not known where the letter originated. 

“This shows the kind of malicious misinformation that is out there right now,” said Sinead O’Carroll, editor of TheJournal.ie. “It makes us more determined than ever to continue providing the context and truth behind every headline and soundbite out there.”

TheJournal.ie, which will be 10 years old in October, has more than 800,000 readers a day and has recently won a number of awards and accolades. 

Our project debunking misinformation around coronavirus was one of ten news organisations highlighted by Press Gazette for excellence in reporting on coronavirus.

The Stardust podcast, described by The Guardian as ‘devastating and important’ won a gold medal at the New York Festivals Radio Awards in April, where it was nominated alongside podcasts from Bloomberg, Sky News and The Washington Post, among others. 

Like many other media outlets in Ireland, TheJournal.ie is facing problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic as advertising dropped when the outbreak began. 

The company has put in place a plan to withstand the ongoing recession and come out the other side. 

As part of this, to counter the drop in advertising, the company has launched an appeal for reader support to continue to provide strong, accessible journalism. Anyone who wishes to contribute can do so here

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie

About the author:

Christine Bohan

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