The week in fact checking: Do movies lie? Also, a decades-old correction, and get your Star Trek facts straight


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.

Fact checking: Not just for politics

Typically, the release of a reality-based, popular film brings out the fact checkers — some who are skilled historians and others who are emotionally attached bystanders. The movie “Selma” has drawn a heap of criticism from both groups about its portrayal of fact. That prompted Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday to issue several suggestions on how to view history-based drama. One of them: Grow a third eye.  Read it.

Behind the fact check

A story about a Harvard professor who allegedly berated a restaurant worker was retracted after some readers, doing their own fact checking, suspected it contained false information. The fallout from the failure to verify the full story continues, by the way.  Read it.

Fact checking for good

Considered one of the worst countries for press freedom, Morocco may have a chance to improve its ranking. An organization called Capdema plans to start a fact-checking site, The Referee, to assess claims made by government officials and candidates. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, recently spent a week with Moroccan journalists to help with fact-checking training. Read it.

Extreme fact checking

Fact shaming becomes a thing. Cuba opens up. Civility invades the comments section. These are some of the fact-checking 2015 predictions —  with a bit of wishful thinking —  from the American Press Institute’s Fact-Checking Project. Read it.

The technology of truth

PolitiFact wants to try out some innovative coverage of the 2015 State of the Union Address, and fact-checking fans can help make it happen. The fact-checking organization has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help provide live fact-checking during President Obama’s Jan. 20 speech, as well as a detailed, annotated version of the speech the following morning. Read it.

Fact check of the week

You’ve probably noticed that Keystone Pipeline rhetoric on all sides of the issue has reached fever pitch. One of the most frequent claims is that the pipeline project will create 42,000 new jobs across the country. has a collection of fact-checking articles about the pipeline here. And The Washington Post’s Fact Checker tackled the job claims this week. Read it.

Fact checking around the world

It’s never too late to correct a fact-checking mistake — and it’s even better when others learn from that correction. Chinese writer Li Zhurun was among those who repeated unchecked fables about propaganda icon Lei Feng in the 1980s. Now, as a journalism professor, he has acknowledged his errors and uses them as a lesson in his classes. Read it.

Fact-checking quote of the week

“Fact checking before publication is also a problem. There’s an unwillingness among journalists to seek comment too widely, for fear that the scoop will escape — and that can mean that apparent technical errors in a “Snowden document” will escape into news stories.” — The Register

What? Something is fake on the internet? 

If you were looking forward to losing weight — like, all of it — on Sunday, you were, of course, disappointed. A viral social media post promised that, because of a rare planetary alignment, earthlings would be rendered temporarily weightless on Jan. 4, 2015. The post, published by a fake news site, was shared more than a million times around the world, according to India Today. Read it.

Some fact-checking fun 

Speaking of the greater universe, an eagle-eyed fact checker somehow came across the “Star Trek Fact Check” site and passed it along to the Fact-Checking Project, which was not appropriately appreciative but is gamely alerting our newsletter readers. The site’s author says his mission is “untangling 47 years of claims about the making of Star Trek.” Ponder it.


For media organizations: Planning to start or expand a fact-checking process in your newsroom in 2015? Contact us for our fact-checking start-up guidelines. 

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