Many newsrooms devoted lots of resources to fact-checking
during the 2012 election. Editors say those efforts seemed popular with voters,
but remain uncertain about whether fact-checking really impacted the behavior
By Gary Graham and Jim Simon
organizations devoted significant resources to fact-checking candidate’s
statements and advertising during the recent election season and generally drew
praise from readers for the effort, according to a recent APME survey.
were more uncertain about the impacts of fact-checking on the campaigns. When the accuracy of ads and accuracy
of political statements were challenged, nearly three-quarters said the
candidates didn’t modify claims. And in no cases, did any candidate pull a
challenged ad, according to the editors surveyed.
Still, even when campaigns ignored the
fact-checking, several editors felt that it was a worthwhile service for
it didn’t seem to affect candidates and their messages, voters noted in
interviews that that they were paying attention to fact-checking and that it
had some affect in their decisions,” said one editor.
editors responded to the November Sounding Boards survey about coverage of this
More than half – nearly 58 percent --
said they devoted significant resources to fact checking in their campaign
At some organizations, reporters simply wedged the
fact-checking into other reporting duties. A few editors said they assigned
reporters and, sometimes an editor, to fact-checking nearly full time. Another
editor said they partnered a member of their watchdog team with a political
reporter to produce fact checks.
the respondents, about 62 percent, incorporated the fact checks into their spot
news reporting. About 10 percent
of those surveyed used a "Truth Needle” or similar gauge that focused on single
issues; while 24 percent wrote columns or editorials based on the fact
checks didn’t prompt any changes in the behavior of candidates, according to 72
percent of the editors. About 17 percent said candidates modified their claims
after inaccuracies were cited, but no one cited any cases of candidates pulling
more than half of those surveyed published some of AP’s fact checks in print or
online; 14 percent published nearly all or most of AP’s fact checks. Another 15
percent said they used PoliFact or some other fact-checking product.
findings, a third of editors who responded said the intensity of the
presidential race was the biggest surprise in their coverage of the election.
"As an Ohio newspaper,” wrote one
editor,” "we expected to see the candidates and their surrogates, but the
number and frequency of visits was beyond our expectations. It started much
earlier than in 2004 and continued unabated.”
editor in the South said the intensity of negative campaigning in the
presidential race kept his staff busy trying to produce issues-focused
percent of the editors said the U.S. economy and unemployment dominated their
percent of editors said they did not commission any polling this year. Of those who commissioned polling, most
said collaborating with other news organizations made the polling possible.