Duke Reporter’s Lab: Vast gaps in fact-checking across the U.S. allow politicians to elude scrutiny

 April 13, 2023


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Mark Stencel and Erika Ryan co-authored the report with contributions from other members of the Reporter's Lab. 

Duke Reporter's Lab has released their latest findings in their continued pursuit to highlight fact-checking efforts in the U.S. 

"From Fact Deserts to Fact Streams: Expanding State and Local Fact-Checking in the U.S." authored by Mark Stencel and Erica Ryan from the Reporters' Lab (part of Sanford) revealed that there are significant gaps in fact-checking across the United States, often allowing politicians to avoid scrutiny. The report analyzed the fact-checking efforts in all 50 states and found that many of them have no consistent fact-checking presence, and only a small percentage of state-level news organizations have dedicated fact-checking operations. This lack of fact-checking can be exploited by politicians who make false or misleading claims without fear of being held accountable.

Specifically, the report includes accounts of local and state elections in which eye-catching candidate claims (about either themselves or their opponents) had no third party to verify candidate policy positions, leaving constituents without clarity when voting.  Additionally, many fact-checkers struggle to keep up with the volume of claims being made, especially during election cycles. The authors suggest that more investment is needed in fact-checking efforts, especially at the local and state levels, to ensure that accurate information is disseminated to the public and that politicians are held accountable for their claims. The report highlights the significance of accurate and reliable fact-checking for maintaining democracy and public trust in institutions.

Read the Lab's summary of the report here.