The week in fact-checking: Legos, floating mobsters, avoiding the 1,500-word correction

FCP logoThe American Press Institute presents a roundup from the world of fact checking, debunking and truth telling — just in case you haven’t been paying as much attention as we do.

Extreme fact-checking
It began with a politician’s statement that the “Lego” movie is a subliminal attack on capitalism. Then, there was a fact check. Then a fact check of the fact check. And a fact check of the fact check of the fact check, ending with a call for another fact check. Thank goodness kids have turned their attention to “The Good Dinosaur” movie. What could possibly go wrong…oh wait… Read it.

Fact-checking Hollywood2079214443_cc096cdeea_z
Hollywood is prolific in producing “facts” that need to be checked, so we’re creating another newsletter category. This week, we newsletter-ize the wise social scientist Vince Vaughn and his discussion of the benefits of guns in schools. A writer for Flavorwire responded to the actor by examining data on firearms and gun-related deaths. Read it.

2048334634_947990f2c5_zThe science of fact-checking
When the body of a man popped up recently in Lake Tahoe, so did decades-old rumors about the bodies of hundreds of mobsters and Chinese railroad workers being dumped there. Why Lake Tahoe? Because it’s cold and bodies don’t float. The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Fact Checker looks into the human biology behind body disposal. Read it.

The technology of fact-checking 
Earlier this week, Arianna Huffington wished for technology that “makes it possible to instantly fact-check a story as you are reading it — or watching it on video.” Magically, a startup called Verifeye Media this week announced a beta version of a tool designed to, among other things, determine whether breaking-news video is fake. Read it.

Try fact-checking at home
Here’s a great tip from Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker and purveyor of Pinocchios: Beware of “false precision” — statements that contain very specific data that would be quite difficult to come by. For example, Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican, said recently that human trafficking is “a $9.5 million business” in the United States. Kessler points out that “the sex trade is an underground industry,” so where exactly did those figures come from? The NYSE?Read it.

Quote of the week
“The political landscape is increasingly strident, stoked not only by talking heads on radio and TV, but magnified by unfiltered and often outrageous postings on social media.” — PolitiFact Georgia, writing about their first five years in the fact-checking business. Read it.

facebookFact-checking around the world
Word to those covering political campaigns in the U.S.: Be prepared for “I-have-more-friends-than-you-do” bragging by candidates. It’s already happening in Europe, so FactCheckEU took a detour from their usual, more serious fact-pondering and ventured into friend-counting on social media. Read it.

Research 
Liars will continue to lie, but that doesn’t mean you should bail on the fact-checking. Michelle Amazeen, a researcher and advertising/marketing professor at Rider University, writes in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog that fact-checking does work — if it’s done the right way. Read it. 

Fact-checking gone wrong
The Sunday Times’ apology for an erroneous story about soon-to-be “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah stated: “Clearly, we had not delved down into the facts as deeply as we should have.” The 1,500-word correction, however, does dive deeply into the facts. Read it.

3829814954_c41f18ccb1_zFact-checking fun 
Jon Stewart examines the annual media hype about “the worst allergy season ever”and worries whether  “we’re all going to drown in our own snot.” Spoiler alert: Someone in a white coat says yes. Watch it.

For media organizations: What does your audience think of your political, accountability and investigative reporting? Through our “Metrics for News” program, we can help you figure it out. Contact us.

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