Commentary

Attacks On Press Lead To New Positions For Fact Checkers

2017 has been a rough year for the press. With constant attacks by the Trump administration, the slightest mistake that would once require a quick correction can turn into a contentious political debacle. (The president's frequent claim of "fake news" is most often leveled at stories reporting truths he cannot abide.)

But while the president has called the media “the enemy of the American people,” the media is ready to steel itself against these attacks, beginning with some changes to the newsroom. Fact checks of the President’s speeches and comments have become regular, and alarming online stories. 

The Washington Post is tracking every false or misleading claim by President Trump. As of November, 14, the total stands at 1,628 claims in 298 days, or an average of 5.5 claims a day. 

Recently, The New York Times' Washington D.C. Bureau introduced a new position at its headquarters: a fact checker.

Fact checkers, the unsung heroes of journalism, offer a safety net when it comes to human error in reporting. But they are rarely used in breaking news or in newsrooms. Which is why this new appointment is something of a revelation. 

The importance of fact checking has become a focus in journalism over the past few years. The Poynter Institute launched its International Fact-Checking Network in 2015 to support initiatives across media that insure accuracy and best practices. 

In just a few months, the new fact checker for The New York Times’s, a former intern named Emily Cochrane, has become an indispensable part of the newsroom.

While traditional fact checkers work directly with sources to verify the information being shared by a journalist, Cochrane works in real time with the journalists, checking their work for accuracy as they write, sometimes providing additional links to pertinent information.

New York Times Washington bureau chief Elizabeth Bumiller stated in a story with Politico that this type of fact checking wouldn’t have prevented the slips seen at ABC or CNN this month. But so far, the addition of Cochrane has fortified the bureau’s journalistic accuracy.

Other sources for Politico also advocated for higher scrutiny when choosing sources.

Cochrane’s work is expected to extend to news assistants that work night shifts in the bureau. The New York Times emphasized the position wasn’t created in response to the new administration’s attacks, but was required because of the sheer volume of news that comes from it.

Whatever the reason, there is an irony to the situation. The president’s repeated attacks on the media may help to improve and galvanize the very industry he hopes to destroy. 

2 comments about "Attacks On Press Lead To New Positions For Fact Checkers".
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  1. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design, December 22, 2017 at 10:10 a.m.

    It would only men anything if the fact checkers were not just checking the people they are targeting but the reporters themselves. WaPo and NYTs are so consitently filled with political propoganda that over half the US considers everything they write now to be false. Adding fact checkers to research thier targets does little to elivaite that reputtion unless they turn those fact checkers on themselves and do so in a non-partician politically nuetral way. Something neither paper has shown any real interst in doing.

  2. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design replied, December 22, 2017 at 10:11 a.m.

    I need a spell checker on my phone!

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