Who Fired the Fact-Checker?

Graphic of Donald Trump making a weird face, casting a shadow where his nose is elongated.

Of all the positions that gradually vanished from our favorite publications’ mastheads over the years (thank you, #budgetcuts), the “fact-checker” may have been our biggest regret.

I don’t think anyone quite anticipated a news cycle where stories would be relentlessly dubbed “fake news” but something tells me paying a hungry, budding journalist eager to get his foot in the door a ~$50,000/year salary (source: Glassdoor) would have been worth every penny to have him play watchdog.

On Tuesday when the Twitterverse erupted in anticipation of President Trump’s second State of the Union (#SOTU) address as 45th President of the United States (#POTUS), I couldn’t help but wonder why we ever fired the fact-checker. I did not count exactly how many media outlets did this, but my Twitter feed quickly overflowed with publications saying that they were fact-checking the State of the Union address in real-time. God bless you.

Their threads appeared long in the number of Tweets, dense in the content they provided, and, interestingly enough, perfectly graphically designed with bubble quotes, cropped Trump headshots, and so-on. How much time did they have to prep these real-time responses to everything President Trump said? Who had the job of dissecting every line of his speech? Again, God bless you.

If Tuesday night’s Twitter binge taught me anything, it is that we need these watchdogs. We need these ~$50,000/year hungry, budding journalists eager to get their foot in the door. I know that every journalist takes on the role as his/her own fact-checker but this is a job unto itself. We not only need someone to relentlessly defend our own reporting, but we need to not abandon our readers when it comes to others’, especially the government’s.

To those media outlets that delivered line-by-line fact-checking of the State of the Union address on Tuesday, this one is for you: thank you.