How PolitiFact will help fact-check the 2016 campaign

Aaron Sharockman is executive director of PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times that has received previous Knight Foundation support. Today Knight is announcing $140,000 in new support to help fact-check claims made by the 2016 presidential candidates on the Medium publishing platform.

At PolitiFact, one of the things we’ve always dreamed about is our fact-checks being able to pop up on your television or computer screen the second you see or hear an inaccurate or misleading political claim.

How great would that be?

Maybe it’s the moment Donald Trump says he saw “thousands” of people celebrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New Jersey. Or it’s as Hillary Clinton claims that GOP rival Ted Cruz tried to ban contraception five times. In those instances, or any time a candidate says something wild, PolitiFact can be there to set the record straight.

After eight years, more than 11,500 fact-checks and one Pulitzer Prize, PolitiFact is about to take an exciting and important step toward that goal.

Through funding from Knight Foundation and a collaboration with Medium, PolitiFact will be able to fact-check politicians for the first time in the same forum where they make their claims. PolitiFact will focus its Truth-O-Meter on the 2016 presidential field.

Some are already turning to Medium, a simple-to-use online publishing platform that allows anyone to generate content with a few clicks of a button. That’s good for sharing information and telling stories, of course.

But also potentially bad when the candidates spin or exaggerate.

2016 candidates Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio are just a few of the presidential candidates using Medium as a publishing tool.

In August, Clinton outlined a plan for higher education using Medium, while Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, responded a few days later in his own post.

“Allowing every American the opportunity to earn an affordable degree that equips them for a modern high-paying job will be a top priority of my presidency,” Rubio wrote. “We cannot restore the American Dream if we fail in this task. So what is Hillary Clinton’s solution to this generation-defining challenge? To raise taxes and pump $350 billion into the current outdated system without making any fundamental changes to increase accessibility, competition, or choice.”

Medium’s platform will allow PolitiFact reporters and editors to sort out the truth in statements such as Rubio’s directly on any post – through inline annotation.

Put another way, a Medium reader will be able to see Clinton’s words, or Rubio’s, at the same time they’re getting PolitiFact’s independent analysis.

Hopefully, it’ll help readers better understand the significant policy decisions facing the country. Maybe, it’ll help people make decisions when they step inside the voting booth. And if we’re lucky, PolitiFact popping up on your TV screens won’t be too far off in the distance.