Look Ahead: RJI Futures Lab Provides Fact-Checking Website For Newsrooms

Fact-checking is a way to deliver accurate information to the public, but to do that requires a lot of time and research. To help newsrooms, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute Futures Lab is offering an “Innovation in Focus” video series that tests technology and methods of storytelling for journalism—one of those methods is a fact-checking website.

“We want to help newsrooms innovate in all aspects of their work—help them try new business models, use cutting edge tools and be the strongest storytellers they can be to serve their communities,” said Kathleen Duncan, senior video editor of the RJI Futures Lab. “We know newsrooms are getting smaller, have less money, and their staff has to do more every day to meet the demands of their owners and readers, and we want to help.”

Kathleen Duncan

The video series breaks down a new journalism method into two to three segments. For the fact-checking website, the first piece was on a local story; the second was with an expert fact-checker, PolitiFact’s Angie Holan; and the third featured fact-checking tips and tools, which is how the fact-checking website was conceived.

For the project, Duncan’s student, Suzy le Bel, fact-checked statements made about education in Missouri, where she looked up laws, public education documents and researched each individual statement to figure out the rating of truth the lab could assign it.

Some of those fact-checked statements included: “Politicians were trying to spend money we don’t have. So we’re left with two choices: Raise taxes or cut spending. I will not raise your taxes,” made by former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, which the lab found out was true. However, the statement, “People are tired of spending more money on education than any nation in the world per capita,” a statement made by Donald Trump, was only found to be mostly true.

The fact-checking files are available for newsrooms to download.

“The fact-checkers are essential because they strip away everything but the core statement and its level of truth based on fact,” Duncan said. “I believe this helps the public understand controversial issues because it drills down to the very essence of the story they’re interested in.”

The fact-checking project has been completed, but the Future Labs team is already planning new projects for its video series. Upcoming topics will deal with drone journalism and data driven storytelling.

Another goal for Duncan is to work more closely with newsrooms. “We hope to partner with more newsrooms to help their innovative projects be successful, create amazing opportunities through our fellowship program for year-long projects that journalists want to tackle, and continue to test tools and methods ourselves to provide the information that newsrooms need to get started in new and exciting aspects of our field.”

For more information about the fact-checking website, visit rjionline.org/factchecker.

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Published: August 7, 2018

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