I Wanna Be Literated #155

I Wanna Be Literated #155

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017
COLUMN

Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism
by Lucas Graves,

I can’t think of a time when we’ve been more aware of the facts we’ve been consuming. Of course that has a lot to do with our political climate, claims of what’s true and what’s fake news and what responsibility we have as news consumers to look at our diet more critically. Whatever your political leanings, we can all argue that we’d all prefer to read news that’s “true.” But how do we find out what is true?

These are the hopes I had going into Lucas Graves’ book Deciding What’s True. I would become a master at distinguishing what’s true and what’s been cleverly manufactured to deceive us. Well, not really. I just want to be a more informed member of society. And unfortunately, Graves’ book is not as promising as it sounds.

Lucas has a history working for Politifact and as such I hoped we’d get into how exactly political figures are held accountable for what they say. Instead, Deciding What’s True reads more like how running a fact-checking organization works. So think about it this way: you’re interested in movies and how they get made, instead you’re getting a tell-all book of how movie studios are run. Instead of seeing how the sausage is made, you’re seeing how to run a butcher shop. You want to find out how to record an album, instead you’re finding out how to run a record label. This book is just too removed from the process to make it really interesting. Are you getting my drift?

There are some great highlights in Deciding What’s True, and that’s when Graves breaks down a fact check from it’s utterance, to the process of fact checking, to the response, and the aftermath. Yes, this is what I wanted! But those moments are very few and far in between (maybe two good examples are used), and instead Graves tediously describes the process (in academic language, no less) of what fact checkers think of themselves, what their conferences are like, how their organizations are funded (OK, that part is actually pretty interesting) how having a social media presence is very important, and telling us over and over again what he’s going to be telling us in the next paragraph, or page, or next chapter.

There is no doubt that I have some new respect for fact-checking after reading this book, but honestly I thought I’d get more out of it.

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