Spanish journalist Ana Pastor on how technology can help the media fight fake news

Spanish journalist Ana Pastor on how technology can help the media fight fake news

May 28, 2024

In our latest episode of UNIQ, Private conversations, we had the pleasure of speaking to one of the most renowned figures in Spain’s media landscape. Ana Pastor, born in Madrid, has drawn on her passion, dedication and conviction to become the host of leading news programs, electoral debates, and create the country’s first fact-checking platform.

Journalist, businesswoman and mother

Ana Pastor defines herself as a journalist, businesswoman and mother. She says these three roles often get mixed up, but each one teaches her how to be better at the others. In her conversation with José Manel Calderón, she discussed how her commitment to her deepest values like honesty, family and education has shaped her life.

Her love and talent for communication have made for a fascinating career. She began working in radio and eventually made her way into the world of television, where she now hosts her own hard-hitting programs and has become known for her interviews with key political and cultural figures.

Technological innovations to promote transparency in the media

In 2018, she founded Newtral, a digital fact-checking startup that has taken her on an adventure of using technological innovations to promote transparency in the media. Newtral only publishes verified information and aims to act as a neutral platform to help its readers, no matter their political opinions, gain a clear understanding of what’s really happening around them.

In Spain, just like in many countries around the world, trust in media has eroded in recent years. Ana Pastor sees fighting against a lack of credibility and the surge of misinformation as one of the top challenges of her career and for the entire field of journalism. With the pandemic, she said, these threats have become more potent than ever.

“At a time of so much uncertainty, people begin to ask a lot of questions and that means that information and transparency take on an added layer of importance.”

There is one solution to fostering trust in the media, according to Ana Pastor, and that is providing verifiable information that is backed by data, open criteria and a clear methodology. Newtral also relies on a team of external auditors to ensure the organization is objective and honest. But that isn’t easy or cheap and requires the rigorous work of fact-checking teams.

AI, databases and chatbots to automate fact-checking

Newtral also relies on cutting-edge technology. She described most of her staff of around 80 people as “centaurs” — half journalists and half engineers. Since news and misinformation move so quickly, the company relies on tools like AI, databases and chatbots to partially automate fact-checking. It is currently developing an algorithm to sift through politicians’ speeches and interviews, detect phrases that are verifiable and cross-check them with information compiled in databases.

“Artificial intelligence and technology are our allies. Misinformation spreads incredibly fast, but we have to move at the same speed to detect it and clarify it.”

Newtral was the first company in Spain to use a serious fact-checking model to monitor Spanish media and politicians, as well as misinformation circulating on social media. She went to the United States to see how American news organizations like the Washington Post were using fact-checking. After her experience, she decided she needed to import the model to Spain. The process of innovating is like “crossing a bridge that still doesn’t exist,” she said, but despite the uncertainty, she is enthusiastic and looking forward to what Newtral, and journalism, will look like in the future.

As the head and founder of an organization, Ana Pastor has learned a lot about leadership. Her philosophy is to stick to her values, strike a balance between empathy and discipline and always give credit where credit is due.

“You have to accept that life will sometimes beat you up. You will fall but you have to get back up… no one has it all.”