Welcome to the Dispatch Fact Check. Our mission is to identify and correct errors of fact, misstatements, misinformation and outright disinformation that make their way into the news stories and social media feeds every day, to the detriment of our national discourse. Because we seek openness and transparency from the sources we are checking on, we also want to provide our readers with transparency about our process.
How Do We Decide What Articles to Check and How Do Maintain Fairness?
Our staffers are plugged in to the news of the day as they prepare our newsletters and research their articles. We receive news in a wide variety of ways: newspapers, magazines, television broadcasts, radio, podcasts and digital-native publications. We monitor Google News alerts, social media, newsletters from a variety of different news outlets and individuals. And, of course, we maintain constant contact with our sources. We also invite our readers to submit claims. As we consider which stories to fact check, we look at it like we would other news judgment decisions: How important is the potential error of fact? How many people might affected? Have we reported out claims on a similar topic already?
There are times when one "side" of the political spectrum is more in the news than others, such as during impeachment, or during the Democratic presidential primary. We seek to strike balance in a few ways when that happens. If we've done a couple of fact checks on a single topic, can we establish that some of the claims are true and some false? If one story is dominating the news, is there another story we should be seeking out?
Sometimes we come across claims that are worthy of checking but are made by anonymous or low-profile accounts on social media. We understand the risk of bringing too much attention to non-public figures. But if someone prominent has cited an erroneous or misleading claim or otherwise amplified it to the general public, we may consider that claim worthy.
We also understand that it's not always accurate or necessarily in the public interest to try to force a perfect balance. There may be times when one "side" is subjected to a higher percentage of our fact checks because there are relevant people making a disproportionate amount of false claims.
What Is Our Fact Checking Methodology?
Once we have decided on a topic, given the criteria listed above, the first step is to look for evidence for and against the claim we are researching. When available, our fact-checkers read a wide variety of news stories on the subject, looking for context. We seek out experts, testing and retesting claims to determine their veracity. We reach out to the original sources of the disputed facts to understand why they made the claims they did and to evaluate the evidence they provide to support those claims. Are there primary documents such as court records, legal documents, or public records that provide the information? Does an official government source make the information available on its website?
Lastly, we will also cite the previously reported fact-based work—news stories, not opinion columns—of reputable news publications.
Who Is Involved in the Dispatch Fact Check?
* Alec Dent is a writer for The Dispatch Fact Check. He is a graduate of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC Chapel Hill, and previously worked for the UNC Program for Public Discourse.
* Rachael Larimore is the managing editor of The Dispatch and the supervising editor of The Dispatch Fact Check. She assigns and edits fact checking stories.
* Steve Hayes is the co-founder, CEO, and editor of The Dispatch. Previously he was the editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard. He also edits Dispatch Fact Check stories.
What If I See Something That Warrants a Fact Check?
We love to hear from you. If you see a story, a tweet, a Facebook post, or any claim by a public figure that you think we should investigate, please send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot promise to investigate every claim we receive, but we will read every mail and consider it as part of our selection process.