October 19, 2016

MIAMI — The U.S. presidential campaign has been so full of spin that fact-checkers at Univision had to fly in reinforcements.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Spanish-language network opened the doors of its Doral newsroom to 25 journalists from 11 countries throughout the Spanish-speaking world to figure out how to tackle the debate jointly.

Tonight’s fact-checking initiative has its roots in a project launched by Univision earlier this year. In March, the Spanish-language network premiered Detector de Mentiras, its graphics-heavy fact-checking initiative. The site is run by the data team at Univision Noticias, which has also helped produce fact-checking segments for previous post-debate coverage on TV.

For the final U.S. presidential debate, however, Univision wanted to try something more ambitious.

Tonight’s outside help hails, among others, from The New York Times en Español, Spanish TV show El Objetivo and the Argentine daily La Nación.

“Our overall approach as a digital operation is that we cannot go down this path alone,” said Borja Echevarría, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief for Univision Digital. “In setting up this collaborative effort, the hope is not merely to increase our output but glean best practices from operations across the Spanish-speaking world.”

The power of collaboration — and the consequences of not teaming up — is becoming ever clearer, Echevarría said.

“Big media often don’t feel comfortable working with other companies, especially with smaller ones,” he said. “But the media that are not going down that path, as with those choosing not to partner on the Panama Papers, are regretting it.”

Some challenges emerged in preparation for tonight’s fact-checking: the U.S. presidential election has global ramifications, but specific issues that may be relevant to Mexican viewers won’t necessarily matter to Spanish ones. Moreover, producing content that can be shared uniformly across platforms is complicated when the room features an eclectic mix of representatives from digital outlets, television and print.

One solution was to produce a set of tips aimed at those watching the debate in a short video:

The other solution was to concentrate on a key topic chosen by moderator Chris Wallace for the final debate: immigration. Joined by veteran immigration reporters from Univision, the fact-checkers will scrutinize claims that have a big impact on Spanish-speaking audiences across the Americas.

“What Trump or Hillary say on this topic has a consequence for people in Mexico and Guatemala,” said Echevarría.

The candidates’ remarks on these topics will be followed closely outside of the United States, said Dulce Ramos, audience growth editor at The New York Times en Español.

“With Mexico being the largest source of audience for The New York Times in Spanish, it is very important for us to cover specifically what the candidates say on trade and immigration,” she said. This effort will complement the Times’ extensive English-language fact-checking effort.

The fact-checks will be released live during the debate on Univision’s social media accounts and branded with “factchequeando.”

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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…
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