Former NPR Managing Editor for Digital News Mark Stencel has just completed a census of active political fact-checking initiatives — and only two are in public media.
“I would love to see public media do more fact-checking,” Stencel told me on The Pub. “It fits our mission perfectly; our audiences have told us they would like it.”
In fact, a listener panel NPR conducted four years ago yielded a stunningly conclusive result: Fact-checking political statements was, by far, the number-one priority that listeners wanted NPR to pursue.
Stencel acknowledges that fact-checking can be expensive and fraught with political sensitivity, as he has written about in research reports for the American Press Institute. You have to pick your battles wisely.
But he thinks public media is uniquely positioned to do this work and to make the sometimes dry subject matter of political fact-checking more accessible to a broad audience.
On this week’s episode, Stencel offers a practical guide on how, when and what to fact-check, and what to do when your fact-checks are inevitably challenged or misconstrued. We listen to examples from NPR’s “Break it Down” series and Capital Public Radio’s PolitiFact California, among others.
Also, I and my colleagues at Mercer University asked our scholarship applicants what they consider to be the most innovative media company. Did any public media make the list? Yes, but nowhere near the top.
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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.