In 2017 at a meeting for science editors, KSJ@MIT director Deborah Blum asked attendees: Who uses fact-checkers in their newsrooms? Only a fraction of the editors raised their hands.
This isn’t surprising: Editorial fact-checking costs money and takes time. Both are often in short supply in journalism. And while all news outlets perform some sort of verification on their stories — after all, that’s fundamental in journalism — not everyone has the resources for the kind of fact-checking Blum was asking about, which calls for having a dedicated person, aside from the journalist and their editor, double-check the accuracy of each and every claim in a story before it publishes.
In 2018, with an unrestricted grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, our team researched how fact-checking functions across science journalism. The result: “The State of Fact-Checking in Science Journalism,” a report based on 91 interviews and 301 surveys from editors at outlets that cover science (including general interest publications), journalists, fact-checkers, and professors or directors of journalism programs. The report also explored what fact-checking resources the interviewees and survey respondents needed to help support their work.
To create some of those resources, we launched The KSJ Fact-Checking Project in 2019 with additional support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.