Mexican fact-checkers say consistency, transparency and humility helped them maintain credibility with their audience after executive power shifted in their country in 2018.
As America prepares for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Jorge Ramis, audience editor at the Mexican fact-checking organization Animal Político, said U.S. fact-checkers should build on their work fact-checking the Trump administration to help the American people hold their politicians to account.
“Don’t stop what you are doing,” Ramis said. “It’s essential for the citizenry to know if a politician is lying.”
In the run-up to the 2018 Mexican presidential elections, Animal Político’s fact-checking and journalism were seen as a boon to supporters of then-candidate and now President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ramis said López Obrador received the bulk of Animal Político’s coverage, and most of its fact checks involved falsehoods about the candidate.
“Supporters of López Obrador used this kind of content in their favor,” Ramis said. However, after the election, Ramis said Animal Político’s continued coverage of transparency and government corruption brought the ire of supporters of the new Mexican president.
“I wouldn’t say there was a campaign of hate against us, but there was a breakdown and the relationship with some part of our readers wasn’t the same,” Ramis said. He referenced Mexican YouTube personalities who support the president by using clips of Animal Político reporters at press conferences to criticize the outlet.
“Something like, ‘This rude reporter asked some stupid question to Andrés Manuel, and the president trolled him with his response,” Ramis said. He noted this is a relatively new phenomenon in Mexico.
Ramis acknowledged the adversarial relationship with the new administration has been a challenge but said being transparent about its methodology and being open and honest about its corrections has helped Animal Político build a base of support.
“If we were wrong, we said it, explain why we were wrong, and tell people how we corrected it. This has helped us a few times,” Ramis said. He added that Animal Político started a subscription model, which Ramis said has been successful.
Ramis said the López Obrador administration has forced Animal Político to shift its focus outside the political arena. He gave examples of how the outlet has covered the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccines with an eye towards explaining their impact on the lives of everyday Mexicans.
“We reported, for example, why it’s good to start vaccinating people above the age of 60,” Ramis said. He also highlighted its debunk of a conspiracy theory that sprang up in the wake of a vaccinated doctor who had an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
“So we explain that this happened because she had huge allergies, and if you have huge allergies you should tell the authorities before they vaccinate you,” Ramis said. “These are the kinds of stories we’re trying to tell.”