MediaTrust.Lab – Local Media Lab for Civic Trust and Literacy is a pioneer study on disinformation in contexts of proximity in Portugal, seeking to identify and analyse strategies and practices of fact-checking by local journalists and the potential collaboration of local media audiences in the process. Through training, promoting digital tools and a mobile app, this action research project also aims to instruct journalists and audiences to fact-check more effectively and efficiently.
It is participated by the research center LabCom – Communication and Arts, by the University of Beira Interior and by the University of Coimbra.
The project is based on three assumptions:
1. Although studies on disinformation and fake news have grown in recent years, their focus is mainly on large territories and national media, identifying a gap in the analysis of smaller territories and local media;
2. Local media in Portugal characterised by frequent financial restrictions and dependence on the State support, small newsrooms with a traditional production culture, and journalists with low salaries and different levels of digital transition;
3. Local news deserts affect democracies. This phenomenon that is already in countries like the USA and Brazil, where there are hundreds of cities without any news media, must be considered in other geographies.
The MediaTrust.Lab structuring axes:
1. Research: identify the Portuguese reality concerning local journalism, disinformation and media literacy by mapping and analysing the Portuguese reality will be carried out through quantitative and qualitative approaches. First, it will be applied to a survey to all local journalists in Portugal in order to identify contexts, practices and difficulties. Second, it will be carried out by focus groups with local journalists and audiences.
2. Action: based on the data collected, MediaTrust.Lab will develop i) training actions designed for local journalists and audiences; ii) digital tools and a mobile app to facilitate the fact-checking process; iii) policy-oriented documents.
3. Training: implementation of the developed tools after testing and analysing their effectiveness and efficiency.
The project goals are:
1. Identify strategies, practices and contexts of local media;
2. Identify and analyse the impact of disinformation content on local media;
3. Explore how local media audience perceives and reacts to contexts of disinformation;
4. Implement a media literacy program centred on new dynamics of civic participation and journalistic information verification practices, aiming to train audiences and journalists to recognise and act in contexts of disinformation;
5. Develop tools and applications that support the fact-checking process.