comScore The Gift of Citizen Journalism: Fact-Checking

The Gift of Citizen Journalism: Fact-Checking

Screen shot 2009-12-16 at 12.43.02 PMRegret The Error’s Craig Silverman has outdone himself this year on his annual greatest-hits list of the year in corrections, including a round up in the Year in Plagiarism, a list no one ever wants to be on. Yikes.

But he also notes an interesting trend in the 2.0 world of citizen journalism: Fact-Checking. According to Silverman, who has called fact-checking “one of the greatest pastimes of the Internet age,” fact-checking of the media by the public, as well as by their press colleagues, is the Trend of the Year:

Everybody loves to call bullshit. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever before.

The irony is that this trend emerges at a time when professional fact checkers, who traditionally worked at magazines, are being laid off. As a result, it appears as though the future of fact checking is in open, public and participatory systems and organizations, rather than the closed, professional systems traditionally used by large magazines. The Internet has made this shift possible.

He goes on to cite a few examples, which I lift with full attribution (written by Craig Silverman!) here:

  • Even before Sarah Palin’s book was released, the Associated Press engaged in a significant internal effort to identify factual errors in the text. Meaning: they fact checked her book before it was on shelves.
  • The Daily Show dedicated numerous segments to fact checking media reports and the questionable declarations of talking heads. As noted by this Poynter Online story, the Daily Show actually employs a full-time researcher/fact checker. The show’s big coup this year was twice exposing that Fox News mixed old and new crowd footage of conservative events, thus creating the impression that attendance was significantly larger than it was.
  • The value of fact checking for journalists was perhaps best demonstrated by a group of students in the Netherlands. A new program at the Tilburg School of Journalism sees fourth-year students spend a three-week stint fact checking the work of Dutch media. When I wrote about the program in October, I was told that roughly 80 percent of the stories they’ve checked included some form of factual error.
  • We reached a strange milestone this year when CNN fact checked a comedy sketch from Saturday Night Live (their story was inspired by a similar report by PolitiFact).

Those are just a few of the examples he cites. In this sped-up world where water-cooler TV moments are being uploaded even as they happen and thumbs are now hard-wired to hit the “post” button on Twitter, fact-checking is needed more than ever before. So will somebody tell me which is the right way to spell it, “fact checking” or “fact-checking?” Craig does it the first way, I do it the second. I hope I’m right, it would be extra-meta-fun to fact check that piece. Or fact-check it.

Anyway, as usual he has collected a lot of just kee-razy corrections from over the past year. A good read, and an excellent, cautionary reminder.

Crunks 2009: The Year in Media Errors and
Corrections
[Regret The Error]
2009 Plagiarism Round-Up [Regret The Error]

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