We are the Fact Checkers of The Washington Post, the ones who give out the Pinocchios. Ask Us Anything!


Hello reddit! We are the Fact Checker team of The Washington Post. We rate statements by politicians from a range to one to four Pinocchios, one for being a minor shading of facts, and four for being an outright lie. If the statement is true, you get a rare Geppetto. [You can read our entire fact checking history here](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/?utm_term=.112a2806a526&tid=sm_rd).

The Fact Checker team consists of we three:

Hi I’m [Glenn Kessler](https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/glenn-kessler/?utm_term=.c2ab11327b5e&tid=sm_rd). I edit and write for The Fact Checker at The Washington Post. I’ve been doing this for seven years, after covering just about every building in Washington during a journalism career spanning more than three decades. My parents emigrated from the Netherlands and we always had 3 or 4 cats in our house. Find me on Twitter at [@GlennKesslerWP](https://twitter.com/GlennKesslerWP).

I’m [Michelle Ye Hee Lee](https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/michelle-ye-hee-lee/?utm_term=.65ef3d0d5997). I was a reporter on Washington Post Fact Checker for the past three years. This week I started a new job here on the political investigations/enterprise team, focusing on money in politics. On Fact Checker, I wrote a lot about immigration, veterans, crime and abortion. I’m responsible for getting LOLcat gifs into [The Fact Checker weekly newsletter](https://subscribe.washingtonpost.com/newsletters/#/bundle/factchecker?method=SURL). Find me on Twitter/Facebook/Insta/Snap: [@myhlee](https://twitter.com/myhlee)

And I’m [Meg Kelly](https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/meg-kelly/?utm_term=.cb3ae6497fbe), I produce videos and sometimes report for Washington Post Fact Checker. Before joining in May, I produced videos, photos and stories for NPR politics. We only have opinions on cats at the Fact Checker — and I’m the odd-woman out, I’m allergic. Find me on Twitter: [@mmkelly22](https://twitter.com/mmkelly22).

[Here’s our proof](https://twitter.com/myhlee/status/918562074527174663). We’ll be getting started at noon. AMA!

EDIT: Typo, it’s outright “lie,” not law.

EDIT 2: We’re done for now! Thank you r/iAMA for allowing us to do this, and thanks to you all for your curiosity and great questions! We may return later to answer some late questions. Have a great weekend!



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55 Comments

  • Why does “fact checking” involve a rating system which is inherently subjective? For example, a recent statement by Rep. Steve Scalise — “You go to a city like Chicago, some of the toughest gun laws in the country are in the city of Chicago and yet they have the worst gun violence.” — was fact checked by WaPo and given Four Pinocchios (the worst rating). Yet [your article](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/10/17/does-a-city-with-the-toughest-gun-laws-end-up-with-worst-gun-violence/?utm_term=.67e8d57b31a8) backs up some of his claim. The conclusion *literally* states “The state of Illinois has tough gun laws.” (“Illinois ranks 8th for the toughest gun laws in the country according to Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence” — from your article).

    The conclusion goes on to say “**Even if Scalise’s data points were correct**, to hold out one city as evidence the laws don’t work is misleading. There are many factors that contribute to high instances of gun violence. And tough laws don’t keep guns from being purchased in other states. Scalise is cherry-picking the data points to cast doubt on gun laws after a national tragedy. We’ve wavering between Three and Four Pinocchios, but focusing on a single city tipped us to Four.” This essentially means that Scalise was partially correct, yet you give him the worst rating possible on a scale that includes “mostly true, half true or mostly false.” Do you see how a rating system adds subjectivity to something like “fact checking” which shouldn’t be subjective?

     

    Let’s compare to this so a statement made by Sen. Dick Durbin in which he said “Social Security does not add one penny to our debt.” Factcheck.org described the statement as false, while WaPo rated it “mostly true.” My point being that even “fact checkers” are throwing in opinion to something that should be completely objective. Why not leave the rating system out of it and just print the context/facts?

  • How do you respond to the criticism that facts should either be rated true or false and that rating truthfulness on a scale just introduces subjectivity into a service that should intrinsically be trying to avoid it?

  • Have you ever considered that you might be able to do the most good if you were to factcheck news organizations, rather than politicians?
    (or maybe you already do this)

  • Are you allowed to fact-check articles written by and about wapo staffers, critical of Bezos and other ownership, or is that off-limits territory? Referring of course to the recent huffpo article posted as a freelance. Is there any conflict of interest involved in doing so?

  • The Washington Post recently had a policy change at the direction on Jeff Bezos, with this specific wording.

    * *”Employees of The Post must not conduct themselves on social media in a way that “adversely affects The Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers, or partners.” A breach of the policy could result in disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”*

    How are we to respect your fact checking if you might get fired for criticizing customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers, or partners? It seems obvious to me that this policy looms over employees, social media or not.

    How does the Washington Post believe it’s able to carry out “watchdog journalism” if it’s own staff can’t complain about that huge list of corporations that fall under such broad categories on their own social media?

  • How did you get started as fact-checkers and what drew you to that particular niche?

  • * What has been you “favorite” Pinocchio to give out so far?
    * Which Pinnochio has made you the angriest?

  • What are your practices for verifying that new information given to you is not some form of “propaganda” that will later be used to portray you as “fake news”?

    I’ve noticed the new norm for some outlets is passing false information to “straight-ticket” voters and then clarifying the falsities on a network they will never see, leaving them to believe the original claim is still true.

  • With so many Americans these days eating up lies no matter how many Pinocchios you give them, how do you convince someone that the truth matters and there *are* objective facts?

  • What is your favorite late night meal/snack?

    Pineapple on pizza?

    Can we see pictures of all the cats?

  • What is a specific fact check that you’re most proud of, or was particularly interesting?

  • You mention your Gepettos are “rare.” Isn’t this true by design?

  • Wait hasn’t the Washington Post lied, failed to fact check and essentially been failing to serve as a trustworthy source? Why do I have any reason to believe you? Your work seems more interested in agenda pushing than real objectivism..

    I’m sorry if this came off as rude, rash or similar. But I genuinely would like a reason.

  • Does the WaPo have any intention of keeping editorials on the editorial page? Thanks!

  • It seems that the people on the right and those on the left are seeing completely different news stories. Sometimes among comments on the Post website, people make reference to alleged political crimes that I had never once heard about. (For instance, evil things about George Soros.) How can I trust that you factcheckers are not in fact biased yourselves?

  • Do you experience harassment as a result of the work you do?

  • Users, please be wary of proof. You are welcome to ask for more proof if you find it insufficient.

    OP, if you need any help, please message the mods [here](http://www.reddit.com/message/compose?to=%2Fr%2Fiama&subject=&message=).

    Thank you!

    *I am a bot, and this action was performed automatically. Please [contact the moderators of this subreddit](/message/compose/?to=/r/IAmA) if you have any questions or concerns.*

  • What is your advice for college/early-career journalists who want to pursue a career in fact-checking journalism?

  • How has your fact checking work changed over the years with social media? Downside/upside? Thanks!

  • Lots of times it seems like fact checkers go for the granular rather than the broad picture, since a grain can be more clearly determined to be right or wrong. But obviously it’s a lot less important than the broad picture. 1, Do you agree about this, and 2, Is there a way that factcheckers can ‘pick their battles’ so that they *do* spend time on the most important things? (Or at least acknowledge to the reader what *is* most important, so a casual reader doesn’t come away from the encounter less informed than before.)

  • At what point do you limit your fact checking?

    Do you keep it to straight facts, or do you sometimes look at the overall assumptions and idea of what’s in the article?

    The reason I ask is I’m in Houston, and there were many assumptions made about Houston and what should be done when covering Hurricane Harvey. The best example is in an article saying that the city of Houston was wrong for not calling for a total evacuation of the city. In 2005 with Hurricane Rita, the city did, and more people died out on the highways trying to evacuate (in 2005) than did during Harvey in 2017. The article made no mention of that storm and also failed to cite reasons that the Mayor gave for not calling for a total evacuation during Harvey.

    That was just one of about 6-8 articles that made incorrect assumptions about what was going on down here.

    Basically after seeing the WaPost’s coverage of Hurricane Harvey, I lost all respect for the paper and in my mind its on the level of tabloid journalism. I feel that if there would have been better fact checking I wouldn’t feel this way about the WaPost.

    EDIT: Spelling & Format

  • If you could make one change to your group’s mission statement, what would it be?

  • What’s the best way for Americans as whole battle misinformation?

  • How do you decide exactly what claim to fact check, seeing as how slightly changing the claim can alter the verdict?

  • Do you have a GoFundMe for booze? Or, does the Post supply it? Really, nobody should do your job sober.

  • Why is your newspaper so anti-Israel? There is little evidence of fact checking but much evidence of bias

  • Given how disconnected the current President appears to be from real facts, what do you believe the tipping point will be for the fact checking to have a tangible effect on his remaining time in office?

  • 1. Have you gotten a raise in the last 10 months

    2. How do you organize trumps various mischaracterizations and outright lies? Doesn’t excel have a row limit

  • Your little user page image says “Democracy dies in Darkness” but your profile instead says “Democracy dies in Dankness”

    I can’t help but feel this is intentional, but I figured I’d ask if you knew about that and if you did is there any more significant meaning to the juxtaposition?

  • A) Thanks for keeping up the good fight….

    B) How you think the media ( a necessary part of democracy IMO) – recover it’s standing in the public eye?

    While the majority of people still have faith – the percentage of people falling for the “fake news” narrative is .. well .. depressing.

  • Are you running out of Pinocchios? If so, what will you do instead?

  • What do you view the biggest threat to our democracy being?

  • belingcat.

    what do you think of him and his methods ?

  • Are there any habitual offenders you admire because they are so brazen?

  • Have there been any instances where a statement you assumed was a blatant lie/misstatement surprised you by, upon research, being true?

    On the same note, are there any statements that you researched that you feel were meant to be false/misleading, but because the speaker misspoke or was uninformed, turned out to be true “from a certain point of view?”

  • Given that a significant portion of the country believes the media makes up stories to attack Trump with, and there’s little belief that main stream organizations such as the Washington Post or New York Times are objective in their pursuit of the truth or their presentation of it; what steps do you think media organizations, such as your own, can take to win back that trust from the American public?

  • Have you considered giving Jim Carreys to lawyers and politicians who tell the truth instead ? That should clear a lot of your schedule.

  • Will Donald Trump give the wood processing industry a new, sustainable resource for lumber with his Pinoccio nose?

  • I’m going to word this is neutral as I can (because I don’t want it come across as myself getting super political), but what happens if someone is accused of being “too opinionated,” if that makes any sense? Is there any sort of action that’s taken because of it, or have you never had to take any action at all?

  • Is it true that nothing matters anymore? Can Donald Trump really get away with anything?

  • How do you go on checking for facts ? By this I mean do you go and search for 3-4 other sources that have the same information or just 1 reliable source is enough ?

  • Can you give me a free subscription so I don’t have to keep hitting ESC and the reload button until I can read the article without the annoying popup?

  • LMFAO How will you address the one party state your writers and editors are tacitly enforcing?

  • Have you received a pay raise or increased overtime since January 20, 2017?

  • How do you handle the structural problem of false balance? If Pol A is spitting out 1000 lies a day and his competitor says just as much but is only spitting out 5, do you pick 1 lie from each to look into?

  • How much overtime are you getting now a days?

  • if skills of fact-checking were measured in dans, what dan is required to get a job?


    third dan googler.

  • What do you do to fight the pressure for false balance in your work? Do your editors push you to go easier on Republicans or harder on Democrats given the huge disparity in bullshit generated from each side and a desire to maintain the appearance of neutrality? How often do you fail?

  • How do you weigh the value of correcting the record against the risk of breathing life into a spurious claim – are the potential political implications of your own actions a factor?

  • In light of the video showing Representative Wilson’s speech, how many Pinocchios is General Kelly going to get?

  • Do you have any advice on how to convince others that something isn’t fake news?

  • There has been many recent attacks against fact checkers, questioning their integrity. Against PolitiFacts, Snopes, you guys and pretty much everyone else. This attack is very dangerous because it creates alternate reality for many where they don’t believe anything they don’t like. How do you fight against that?

  • [removed]

  • Is Gen. Kelly going to get some pinocchios?

  • How do we reinstate truth as an important qualifying factor in determining the electability of a politician? These days it seems that Party is far more important than facts to the electorate, particularly among the right wing. How do we get our politicians to tell the truth, and how do we get the electorate to *care* if a candidate tells verifiable lies?

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