August 26, 2016

Commentators may be waxing lyrical about the “post-fact” era, but readers — at least at The Washington Post — don’t seem to be buying it.

Back in July, National Digital Editor Terri Rupar noticed traffic to the Republican National Convention liveblog “really spiked” when the Post announced on social networks that it would include analysis from in-house fact-checking duo Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, launched in 2007, has already had a bumper year. And audience numbers keep growing.

Traffic to the Fact Checker increased about 40 percent in July compared to the average for the first half of the year, says Kessler. Unique users are up an additional 30 percent in August, with almost a week left in the month. (This traffic growth is mirrored at the other big two national fact-checking sites, and PolitiFact, a project of the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times.)

The convention bump led Rupar and her colleagues to launch #FactCheckFriday, a cross-platform effort to distribute fact checks to an audience clearly yearning for them. Every Friday, Fact Checker articles from the past week are collected in a Twitter Moment like the one below, presented in a Snapchat story and discussed on Facebook Live. The Fact Checker also sends its newsletter every Friday.

Twitter Moments, which are being gradually opened to everyone, are a “great tool,” Rupar said. They also allow the Post to quickly combine Fact Checker articles with fact-checking work by reporters elsewhere in the newsroom, such as David Fahrenthold’s ongoing investigation into Donald Trump’s claim that he has donated millions to charity.

Lee and Kessler are also turning to Facebook Live. In another indication that voters are interested, last week’s video gathered almost 66,000 views and 1,500 reactions. That places it at the higher end of engagement for recent Washington Post live videos.

With a recent exposé shedding light on the enormous Facebook reach of non-traditional outlets covering the election, pushing political fact-checking on Zuckerberg’s network seems particularly apt.

The Post has experimented with fact-checking on social media before. Lee did some on Snapchat in January; the stories did very well at the time and continue to have a high completion rate, Rupar said.

Fact checks get the full spectrum of reactions from readers, often the same ones who complain that the media doesn’t fact-check enough.

Overall, however, readers this election cycle are paying attention to the Post’s fact checks and will be seeing a lot more of them on their social networks over the next few months.

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Alexios Mantzarlis joined Poynter to lead the International Fact-Checking Network in September of 2015. In this capacity he writes about and advocates for fact-checking. He…
Alexios Mantzarlis

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