Mark Stencel

Mark Stencel is NPR’s former managing editor for digital news and the author of a 2015 American Press Institute report on how political professionals are adapting to the scrutiny of media fact-checkers. He also is the co-author of two books on media and politics and a 2014 Duke Reporters’ Lab study on obstacles to newsroom innovation (

He previously held senior editing and executive positions at the Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly, and was a reporter for the News & Observer in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. He has been a visiting faculty member and digital fellow at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. He also is a board director for the Student Press Law Center and an advisory board member for Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism in Macon, Ga.

Implications and lessons for journalists practicing fact-checking

Fact-checking is changing how people do politics. At its best, this reporting makes officeholders, candidates, parties, staff and supporters more cautious about what they say. It also provides independent, explanatory information that partisans use as a frame or point of reference to discuss complex issues. At the same time, fact-checking can also provide something else […]

Politicians keep pushing some claims despite what fact checks say

By running TV ads that recycled and repeated claims that journalists had previously found false, Kentucky Democrat Alison Grimes and the Republican Governors Association were demonstrating another tactic political organizations use to respond to fact-checkers: sticking to their guns. As one Democratic consultant put it, “We’re not going to let fact-checkers write our ads anymore.” […]

Some politicians simply shut out the fact-checkers

“Shooting the messenger” is an especially loud way for newsmakers to respond to a pesky news organization. Another approach is a lot quieter. So quiet, in fact, it means not even answering reporters’ questions. In 2012, the Republican Party of Virginia’s public report on the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s fact-checking unit said ignoring its reporters “would be […]

Politicians attack the fact-checkers to deflect findings

Accusations of media bias are nothing new in political journalism. But those charges are particularly fraught for fact-checkers, whose roles require them to make factual determinations about the content of partisan statements. Critics dedicate themselves to continuously mocking the contention that fact-checkers’ work is fair and unbiased. But rarely do these discussions get as openly […]

‘Fact Check This’: How U.S. politics adapts to media scrutiny

Introduction Media fact-checking has become a fact of life for political professionals, especially at the national level and in places where local news organizations have dedicated reporters to verifying statements by elected officials, candidates and their supporters. This report looks at the ways the people who make those statements are adapting to the increased scrutiny. […]

Politicians use fact checks as weapons against opponents

Most newsrooms’ early efforts to referee political communication focused on the content of political advertising. During election seasons, just trying to keep up with those claims and counter-claims can still be Sisyphean work for fact-checkers. And, perhaps fitting for this meta-media era, an increasing amount of that effort involves fact-checking claims about earlier fact checks, […]

Politicians modify words, prepare evidence to satisfy fact-checkers

Of the various ways to respond to critical fact checks, perhaps the easiest is to simply modify or even drop a faulty message. But the most effective of all might be to establish internal processes and checks to make sure that political messages stand up to scrutiny in the first place. In many cases, a […]

Politicians use fact checks to validate their own claims

Politicians talk about fact-checking — a lot. But “you don’t have to take my word for it,” as Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington once said, citing a fact check from the Washington Post. In fact, searches in the Congressional Record for 2013 and 2014 found three different senators on four occasions using that same […]

How fact-checking journalism is changing politics

Even before PolitiFact’s Lou Jacobson contacted a congressional press secretary back in 2010, the spokesman’s boss had accumulated a disappointing series of low scores on the Pulitzer-winning news site’s trademarked “Truth-O-Meter.” Several of Jacobson’s fellow reporters from the Tampa Bay Times’ national fact-checking team already had rated about half of this lawmaker’s statements false. The […]