It was late January, 2020. Amidst the catastrophic COVID-19 crisis in China, I landed in Delhi. Soon, I met Syed Nazakat (the founder and CEO of DataLEADS) and a conversation over coffee turned into a noteworthy collaboration that later went on to have a substantial impact on my professional life.
I had come to India on a holiday, but I wasn’t really in the holiday mood. Half of China was under lockdown, Wuhan had become a ghost city, and the medical system was on the brink of a breakdown. I abandoned my holiday plans and joined First Check to work on a special China reporting project.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I had been in a constant state of anxiety, and working extensively on issues related to the pandemic – the source of my anxiety – somehow managed to make me feel better. Together with the First Check team, we sought answers to important questions, such as ‘Why the Coronavirus crises is getting out of control in China?’
We took a deep dive into health data collection in China, and analysed thoroughly China’s struggle with data. We examined how China’s unique social media and media landscape facilitated an epidemic of misinformation. We also debunked multiple misleading claims on COVID remedies – proven to be unscientific and untrue – that were popular on Chinese social media platforms.
Back then, I remember working on stories the whole night. I also remember having heated discussions with colleagues at the editorial meetings the next morning. Once, for a fact- check story, I remember asking every member of the First Check group from across Asia if they could identify the language spoken in a viral video.
One month flew by in no time! However, the skills and knowledge that I acquired while working with the First Check team continue to help me till date. (Apart from fact-checking, I also learnt to tell the difference between different types of Indian breads!)
Although my trip to India turned out to be very different from what I had expected, I am truly grateful for everything. Once a fact-checker, always a fact-checker! I am honoured to continue being a member of First Check.