On Sept. 27, several Hunter journalism students and professors David Alm and Pam Frederick attended “Our Fake Reality: Journalism, Legitimacy, and Post-Facts America,” at Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in SoHo. For a panel on fact-checking, it was remarkably entertaining.
The panelists included Bill Adair, founder of PolitiFact; Karen Mahabir, head of fact-checking at the Associated Press, and Nahiba Syed, assistant general counsel at BuzzFeed. The program was moderated by Manoush Zomorodi, co-host of the Zig-Zag podcast and previously a tech reporter for New York Public Radio.
The group delved into how to combat falsehoods at a time when (mis)information ricochets around the world in an instant, when distrust in the media is at an all-time high and when legitimate news outlets compete with newcomers that may not hold the same standards in an increasingly crowded marketplace. They also explained the nuts and bolts of their work, from how they select which facts to check to how they check them in a non-partisan way.
All of the students who attended appeared genuinely inspired by the panelists’ work, which is saying a lot. Fact-checking has historically been among the least glamorous sides of journalism, difficult, tedious and often thankless, and it’s only getting harder in the digital age. But it’s never been more important, and the event gave reason to be optimistic in this time of such uncertainty. There are still people out there doing the tough work, relishing it even and presenting it to the next generation to enter the field as precisely what it is: a vital, invigorating, and indispensable piece of the puzzle.