Deciding What’s True

The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism

Lucas Graves

Columbia University Press

Deciding What’s True

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Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231175074

336 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.95

Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231175067

336 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.95

Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231542227

336 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.95

Deciding What’s True

The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism

Lucas Graves

Columbia University Press

Over the past decade, American outlets such as PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, and the Washington Post's Fact Checker have shaken up the political world by holding public figures accountable for what they say. Cited across social and national news media, these verdicts can rattle a political campaign and send the White House press corps scrambling. Yet fact-checking is a fraught kind of journalism, one that challenges reporters' traditional roles as objective observers and places them at the center of white-hot, real-time debates. As these journalists are the first to admit, in a hyperpartisan world, facts can easily slip into fiction, and decisions about which claims to investigate and how to judge them are frequently denounced as unfair play.

Deciding What's True draws on Lucas Graves's unique access to the members of the newsrooms leading this movement. Graves vividly recounts the routines of journalists at three of these hyperconnected, technologically innovative organizations and what informs their approach to a story. Graves also plots a compelling, personality-driven history of the fact-checking movement and its recent evolution from the blogosphere, reflecting on its revolutionary remaking of journalistic ethics and practice. His book demonstrates the ways these rising organizations depend on professional networks and media partnerships yet have also made inroads with the academic and philanthropic worlds. These networks have become a vital source of influence as fact-checking spreads around the world.
A lively page-turner about political fact-checking that also digs deep into the very foundations of public knowledge. What do we really know, and how do we know it? Graves provides thought-provoking answers. In an age of partisan warfare, this urgently needed book reveals the transformations, tensions, and continuing virtues of journalistic objectivity. Rodney Benson, New York University
In Deciding What's True, Lucas Graves provides a thoughtful, empirically grounded analysis of the major fact-checking organizations, studying their evolution and importance in the rapidly changing world of journalism. It is absolutely essential reading for journalists, news executives, and their audiences. Herbert Gans, Columbia University
A timely, compelling, and important account of the rise of political fact-checking, a development—indeed, a movement—aimed at not only improving the quality of public discourse but also invigorating the practice of journalism. This book amounts to nothing less than a genuinely new chapter in the history of modern American journalism. Theodore L. Glasser, Stanford University
Graves follows a cadre of journalists in their attempts to nail down that most slippery of objects—the fact. In so doing, he shows that, in a networked age, 'the facts' have never been more central, or more problematic, for the culture of journalism. A must-read for anyone interested in the state of journalism today. David Ryfe, University of Iowa School of Journalism
In an era marked by broad challenges to the credibility of journalism, Deciding What's True provides an insightful look at major transformations in the knowledge-making regimes that foster the veracity of news. Drawing on a vast array of sources and evidence, Graves sheds light on the practices and experiences of fact-checking and its effect on the interplay among politics, media, and society. Pablo J. Boczkowski, Northwestern University
A keenly observed visit to a new world whose geography we can now better comprehend. Kirkus Reviews
Acknowledgments
Part I. The Landscape of Fact-Checking
Introduction
1. Ink-Stained Fact-Checkers
2. Objectivity, Truth Seeking, and Institutional Facts
Part II. The Work of Fact-Checking
3. Choosing Facts to Check
4. Deciding What's True
5. Operating the Truth-O-Meter
Part III. The Effects of Fact-Checking
6. Fact-Checkers and Their Publics
7. The Limits of Fact-Checking
Epilogue
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

Read the introduction:

  • Read an interview with the author in PolitiFact
  • "Who decides what’s true in politics? A history of the rise of political fact-checking" -- Lucas Graves interviewed in Poynter
  • Reada review in Inside Higher Ed
  • Listen to an interview with Lucas Graves on the New Books Network

About the Author

Lucas Graves is an assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin. He is the coauthor of The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism (Columbia, 2011), and his writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Wired, the New York Times, and other publications.