14 October 2008

Sites Fact-Check Debate Via Twitter

Journalists at an American newspaper provided a real-time fact-checking service during the latest presidential debate.

Reporters working on PolitiFact.com used the site’s Twitter stream to give verdicts on the veracity of statements made during the head-to-head between Barack Obama and John McCain, blogs Amy Gahran at Poynter Online.

The website, a project of the St Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, is running an online fact-checking service throughout the campaign and offering truth-o-meter readings on claims made by the two candidates and their running mates.

And during the debate its journalists used this growing database of verdicts on statements to update people via the microblogging platform Twitter.

News technologist Matthew Waite explained the website’s two-pronged approach to covering the debate to Gahran.

“The whole live-tweeting thing was just a seat-of-the-pants idea,” he said.

“Every time the candidates said something we’d already checked, we hollered it out.”

He added that at the same time other reporters were keeping an eye out for any new statements from Obama or McCain which could then be checked out as the debate continued.

While Waite himself used Twitter to post links to previous PolitiFact reports on various pronouncements repeated during the discussion.

The initiative has already seen some immediate benefits with the number of people following PolitiFact via Twitter increasing by about 50%.

An audio file containing an interview between Gahran and Waite is available on Poynter Online.

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