Will Automation Put the Fact in Fact-Check?

February 15, 2017

by Dan Ward

Automated fact-checking may be the wave of the future, according to this Poynter Institute story, and that could be a good thing if it begins to add objectivity to what is currently opinion journalism.

Instead of checking facts and declaring them correct or false, many “fact checkers” today deal in degrees of accuracy, judging stories according to a scale of truthfulness.  Human judgment is required to determine whether a story is true, mostly true or half true, and that judgment requires a subjective review that inevitably is influenced by journalists’ feelings about a topic.  So instead of getting a verdict on whether a statement is true or false, we get an opinion that factors in bias, assumptions and context.

From the story about the goal of automation: “The state of technology and the maturity of fact-checking organizations today make it possible to take the first steps toward that goal.”

In a nascent industry that issues rulings like “Pants on Fire” and “Four Pinocchios,” the term “maturity” rates a Half True at best.

But of course, that’s just my opinion.


Reporter or Columnist?

August 24, 2009

by Roger Pynn

What happens when reporters comment in a blog on stories they have written?

Have they stepped across the line and become columnists?

Can they go back?

When Orlando Sentinel Reporter Jim Stratton posted this did he cross the line and become a member of the paper’s opinion staff?

Stratton and colleague David Damron wrote a significant story about the work of myregion.org– a group of regional leaders dedicated to smart growth – then in his blog he makes very clear what his opinions are. Does that signal what motivated him as he wrote the story? Can people of differing opinions understandably now take issue?

As a matter of full disclosure, I am a member of that organization’s board of directors. I won’t take issue here with what Stratton and Damron wrote. But I will question the newspaper’s judgment in letting reporters blog. I think it is bad practice.

As a former reporter (in fact for the Orlando Sentinel) I was taught and told “never express your opinion.” Why has that changed?


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