Readers of this blog occasionally ask me the same few questions. Who writes the Fact Check? How do you decide what to Fact Check? How can I get something fact checked?
To help out those readers who haven’t asked but may be wondering the same things, I’ve written down the most frequently asked questions and their succinct answers. If I missed one, please let me know. My contact information is at the end of this post.
Who are the Fact Checkers?
They’re VOSD news reporters and editors — the same people who investigate City Hall, schools, community issues, arts programs and public safety day in and day out. I manage the Fact Check Blog, helping to keep it fresh with new stories each week. VOSD’s CEO Scott Lewis and Editor Andrew Donohue (my boss) handle Fact Check TV.
Wait, Fact Check TV? What’s that?
Lewis and Donohue co-host a weekly segment on NBC7 San Diego that runs through our latest Fact Checks. The segment airs each Friday during the 6 p.m. newscast, but if you miss it, we usually post the video on this blog each Monday. Check it out!
Why did VOSD start the San Diego Fact Check?
We believed people in the region would come to better decisions if their conversations were grounded in truth, and they knew which information to trust. Like baseball, residents needed an umpire to help them understand when politicians and others were throwing balls or strikes.
The project’s also inspired by PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning website run by the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. PolitiFact shares similar mission. We adapted the idea to local affairs and expanded it beyond politics to any claims in the public sphere.
Who created the Pinocchio graphics and defined the Fact Check’s ratings?
Ashley Pingree Lewis, a graphic designer and the wife of Scott Lewis, created the blog’s graphics. Scott Lewis and Donohue defined the ratings, using similar categories used by PolitiFact as guidance.
How do you choose which claims to Fact Check?
We primarily look for bold claims where the research would likely reveal something interesting about a broader issue or the person who made the claim. Some Fact Checks aim to explain a topic. Others aim to hold people accountable. Especially during election season, we tend to focus on the latter objective when correcting false claims more concretely serves the public’s interest in an honest discussion.
OK, give me some recent examples of your decision making process.
This “poison pill” claim by Mayor Jerry Sanders attracted our attention because he repeated it on several occasions and the claim gained traction in the public sphere by landing in numerous news media reports. We researched his claim with an open mind and it turned out to be False.
A couple readers asked us to examine this bold claim by Supervisor Bill Horn about being jailed during the civil rights movement. The claim interested us since Horn used it to fend off critics. He had a clear motive. It wasn’t a random comment. It also turned out to be inaccurate.
Reporters occasionally reformat the research they do for stories as Fact Checks. While an analysis of alcohol-related crime data illuminated a broader shift in San Diego, it also confirmed this bold claim in an editorial published by the Union-Tribune. We do this because some readers seem to prefer the format of a Fact Check more than a traditional news story, and we want our research to reach as many people as possible.
Numerous readers have asked us to examine the accuracy of actuarial projections, government databases or privately-funded surveys. Some of these cases would have required a tremendous investment of resources that we can’t afford as a small nonprofit. If you want to help us expand this project, please make a tax deductible donation to VOSD.
How can I get VOSD to Fact Check a claim?
It’s easy! Send an email to me at email@example.com or call me directly at 619.550.5668. It helps to describe who made the claim, where you heard it and why you think it should fact checked. Remember, we’re interested in possibly true claims, too.
This is great and all, but how can I get involved?
This project depends on reader support. It’s impossible for us to monitor and research all of San Diego’s boldest claims alone. We need people to attend public meetings, follow local news and tell us when we should Fact Check a claim. Please circulate this flier inviting people to contact us.
We appreciate constant feedback, too. If you read a Fact Check and disagree with our analysis or rating, please tell us why. Write in the comments section, tag VOSD in a tweet or send the post’s author an email. Your voice helps us continue to improve.
On that note, be sure to let me know if you have a question about the San Diego Fact Check that I didn’t cover. Email is the easiest way to contact me. If several people ask the same question, I’ll update this post.
Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.
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