The day after President Clinton's speech to the Democratic National Convention, the Associated Press produced a “fact-check” that could be best described as the perfect parody of the systemic flaws I described last week. Rather than offering a limited, measured evaluation of the factual claims in the speech, the AP treated its fact-check as an opportunity to conflate fact with conflicting opinions of Bill Clinton's legacy. As Talking Points Memo headlined its post on the article, “True, but also, Lewinsky!”
Such absurdities line up nicely with my critique of the fact-check status quo and it's useful as evidence in this “What About The Facts?” conversation we're finally having. But the problem with my proposed solution to our fact-checking problem is that my information-standards system doesn't offer any short-term options for the failure we're experiencing right now. Even if we were deploying the first semantic content-management systems in newsrooms today, the emergent features I described would still take years to develop.
So what could we do, right now, with only the resources news organizations have on hand?