This week the fact checking news kept coming. The Nieman Watchdog Project published a story that looked at what journalists who should do when politicians lie. Here at CJR, Brendan Nyhan examined ways journalists can do a better job debunking falsehoods. (I dedicated two recent columns (1, 2) to the challenge of combating misinformation. One of those columns looks at research done by Nyhan and his colleague, Jason Reifler.)
As if that wasn’t enough, an e-mail written by Craig Newmark and sent to participants of the CUNY event was published by Jim Romenesko on his new site. Newmark laid out his vision of what a new cooperative fact checking initiative might look like. He sees it as marrying some of the work of the Center for Public Integrity with the Public Insight Network and the work being done by places like PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, among others. (He also name checked Truth Goggles and a new project, Hypothes.is.)
As if that weren’t enough, the march towards fact checking continues in a couple of weeks when I fly to Washington to take part on a one day event about checking hosted by the New America Foundation.
Yes, fact checking is on fire!
Well, hold on. I’m going to be a little more cautious than I was two years ago, and acknowledge that what we have right now is a lot of discussion and enthusiasm and new projects. But very little new checking yet.
The tools and technologies listed on slide 10 in my presentation are all new. Some have yet to launch.
Craig Newmark seems committed to helping establish new pro-am networks of fact checking, and my sense is he is willing to provide some financing to do it. This is new and important, and I hope it takes shape soon.
There are many things that make me feel positive about how we might find new ways to combat misinformation in 2012. We have more people, organizations, funders, technologies and technologists focused on the challenge. There is also a growing sentiment within in journalism that it’s time to stop allowing falseshoods to stand without challenge, or to quote people spreading lies just because they represent the ”other side”.
I feel encouraged and energized about what the next twelve months might bring.
But then I look on the other side and I see coordinated e-mail campaigns to spread lies; I see political pros investing money and expertise in creating falsehoods and injecting them into the public sphere via the Internet, TV, radio, and other mediums. I see people with a big head-start.
One of the things that blunts the effectiveness of journalistic checking is that we refuse to engage with the level of passion and determination of those who create and propagate public untruths. True progress will require a tougher attitude, a willingness to aggressively call bullshit. We also need to study the dark arts of public untruths and reverse engineer them with the same level of calculation and ferocity.
Are we up for that? I have my doubts, but I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and throw a few punches.
On that note, it’s time to share that I won’t be throwing any haymakers or slinging new opinions here on CJR.org. After a little more than three years, this is the final edition of my weekly column. I’m grateful to my editor Justin Peters, who has been wonderful to work with, and a real champion of the column. Mike Hoyt and the other great folks at CJR have also been incredibly supportive and kind. I’ll miss them.
Why is this column ending? Yeah, I guess I buried the lead. I will be taking my work to a new home soon as part of a larger announcement regarding my site, Regret the Error. Watch that URL for the news.
Finally, thanks to all of you who sent feedback and added comments on these columns. You made my work better, and you also did a bang-up job of helping spot my mistakes.
Correction of the Week
In the Thursday edition of The Greenville News, someone added a vulgar word to a wire story inside the Sports section. We are saddened by this and assure everyone that we will deal appropriately with it. We apologize to our readers and the reporter whose name appeared over the story. — The Greenville News