NPR Wants You To Help Fact-Check the Debate

Here’s something interesting: NPR wants you to help them fact-check the debate tonight, and they want you to use Twitter to do so. Make a Tweet that includes the hashtag “#factcheck” and has a primary source rebutting one of Palin’s or Biden’s claims, and NPR will take a look. You can follow along using a tool like Tweet Scan.

This is fascinating on a number of levels. One, it’s taking Twitter and turning it into an information-gathering source. NPR isn’t the first to do so: during the recent gas crunch in Atlanta, residents started Tweeting the location of gas stations that had gas and tagging them with “#atlgas” so others could find the information. Twitter wasn’t designed for this, but hey, when have we ever stuck with using a tool the way it was meant? Two, it’s letting a news organization’s audience help with the journalism. Again, this isn’t new, as Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo has been doing collaborative journalism for years. But mix collaborative journalism with the ease of commenting via Twitter and you’ve got an interesting combination.

There are a lot of ways this can turn to mud. If you were an ass, you could flood the channel with noise, creating lots of accounts to post random junk with the #factcheck label. Or you could post erroneous information knowingly, using this as another channel for candidate-driven disinformation. NPR — or at least its poor interns — will have to cull through the chaff to get to the wheat, and even then NPR could cherry-pick the data to slant their eventual story. But the raw data is still there for anyone to see.

(Given more time, I’d love to slurp down that data and correlate it eight different ways. Tag the information NPR uses versus what other sites do (assuming they do so). With what frequency did the same information get posted? How soon after a candidate said something questionable did the rebuttal show up on #factcheck?)

I’ll have a better idea by tomorrow how well it worked, at least in my mind. And it’ll be fun to monitor during the debate.

5 thoughts on “NPR Wants You To Help Fact-Check the Debate

  1. This is one of those entries that I find immensely fascinating. While most of us scratch our heads and say “How on earth is that going to work?” -or- “That is never going to work out.” You point by point outline what problems it might have, solve them and provide alternate talking points for how the data should be used. I am absolutely amazed.

  2. Stephanie, it’s a key trait of good project managers: defining the problem well, dissecting it to its core, and moving forward. While many scientists and engineers make terrible managers because they have zero people skills, the best managers I’ve known have had technical backgrounds and these very important dissection skills.

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