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This History and Current State of Fact Checking


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A look at how fact checking stared at American magazines and has spread and evolved over time. By Craig Silverman of

This History and Current State of Fact Checking

  1. 1. The history and currentstate of fact checking in 15minutes or less* *Go ahead and time me, fact checkers
  2. 2. In the beginning...“Any bright girl who really applies herself tothe handling of the checking problem canhave a very pleasant time with it and fill theweek with happy moments and memorableoccasions” — Edward Kennedy, Time (1920s)
  3. 3. Magazines Catch On 30s to 70s• New Yorker, Esquire, New York, The Atlantic, Forbes, Fortune, Newsweek etc. add checking departments.• Closed process• Job was a stepping stone
  4. 4. Watchdogs Emerge• Accuracy in Media, 1969• FAIR, 1986• Media Research Center, 1987 (NewsBusters)• Honest Reporting (2000), CAMERA (1982)• Media Matters for America, 2004
  5. 5. Emergence of Dedicated Checking Orgs•, 1993• PolitiFact, 2007
  6. 6. Decline of Magazine Checking Depts.• Newsweek eliminates checkers, 1996• Fortune, 1997• Cutbacks and outsourcing hit other publications
  7. 7. Weaponization of Checking• “We can fact check your ass” — Ken Layne• Rathergate• Blogs + crowdsourcing = new, collaborative checking
  8. 8. Fetishization of checking
  9. 9. New Players, New Technology• Report An Error Alliance/Fact Check box•• MediaBugs• NewsTrust/TruthSquad• Storyful• SwiftRiver• Truthy• WikiFactCheck
  10. 10. Future of Fact Checking?• Open, collaborative systems• Mixture of human and machine intelligence• Need new tools, and to spread skills/ training• Will still be used for partisan purposes, which means more noise and clutter in the space
  11. 11. One View“In 20 years, I think we will have figured out howto identify quality and credibility among thethousands and thousands of news sourcesvying for some of my attention ... Along thosesame lines, my news tools will fact-check everynews story I read, highlighting mistruths,mistakes, bias, etc., and providing citation linksto back up highlighted problem areas in thecontent.”— Steve Outing