As student journalists, we understand the importance of reporting factually accurate stories and correcting unintentional misprints. Typical copy editing processes edit articles multiple times, confirming claims and removing biases in order to deliver the most truthful and honest news as possible. Fact-checking is a crucial stage in this process—but even in the most widely read newspapers or journals, small details can be overlooked.
Fact-checking is even more difficult to do during live political events—once incorrect claims are made and shrouded in emotion or patriotism, it is difficult to convince people of the truth.
Fact-checking was the unexpected star of the first official debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday Sept. 26. Lester Holt—journalist and moderator for the debate—actually fact-checked candidates’ claims throughout the live event. Additionally, Clinton advertised her website’s fact-checking page during the debate in an effort to expose Trump’s claims.
Some critics curse the constant need to fact-check candidates because of their careless mistakes, which warrants some merit. In a perfect world, our political leaders wouldn’t make constant errors in speech or judgment. But it is a good thing—in the long run—to be actively skeptical about debates. We can take claims with a grain of salt and rely on fact-checking afterward.
Paying attention to fact-checking can only improve the way we understand and judge public figures. In our digital age when any rumor or lie can be taken as truth on the Internet or through popular media outlets, good, old-fashioned copy editing processes are as relevant as ever.
Even when our humble student-run newspaper dedicates time to fact-checking, the results aren’t always perfect. But when this lapse in factual accuracy happens on a wide scale—or a national one, as in the first debate—the consequences are disastrous for voters and our political process as a whole.
Hopefully, the missteps of Monday’s debate inspire voters to do research before simply believing anything they hear.