Fact checking has been a growth industry in the Trump era.
But will the need for fact checking lose its urgency when Trump leaves the White House?
That’s because the disinformation ecosystem is still proliferating via social media and the hyper-partisan fragmentation of society. Trump is a symptom rather than its root cause. There is every reason to hope that the presence of a president who does not lie all the time will not exacerbate our divides on a daily basis. But it would be dangerously naïve to believe that the underlying infrastructure of hate news and fake news will be solved with a new president.
But these reforms will not be speedy, and they are not sufficient. The core responsibility of journalism is to tell the truth — especially at a time when our civil discourse is polluted by lies. We need to call balls and strikes and help people make sense of all the chaos that surrounds them. And, of course, every administration needs to be held to account by the press, even if not every president calls journalists “the enemy of the people.” That’s why we need to not just fact check, but add perspective — the very thing we have least of in our politics today — offered up with a bit of history and humor, as I try to do with my daily Reality Checks on CNN’s “New Day.”
It would be a huge mistake to assume that simply because the velocity of lies from the White House is likely to decrease dramatically that the need for fact checks has expired. Instead, it has only transformed to a broader arena than a presidential beat. It’s the part of news that people need most now, the tip of the spear that fights for the idea that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.
This is necessary for a substantive, civil and fact-based debate, which is a precondition for a functioning, self-governing society. And that’s why fact checking will remain a core responsibility for journalists in the future.