Fact-checking Journalism Librarianship

Fact-checking TV ads in a post-truth election

The Internet Archive combined forces with fact-checkers like PolitiFact this year to collect, archive and fact-check television ads of the 2016 election cycle. Nancy Watzman of the Internet Archive and I joined together to write this column for USA Today about our insights on the project.

As sure as night follows day, we are in for a torrent of political ads in the next 14 weeks. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump already are running general-election spots, and Senate and House campaigns will generate their own deluge as the two parties battle for control of Congress. These ads are often the main point of communication between candidates and voters. Most of them are designed to catch people’s attention with simple and striking messages. And most of them have a tortured relationship with the truth — bending, stretching, or all-out contradicting the facts. MORE …

Digital Fact-checking Journalism Librarianship

Annotating the State of the Union and responses

It warmed my librarians’ heart that PolitiFact’s first Kickstarter included annotating political rhetoric. My own definition of annotation is adding a note to an existing work to perform one or more of the following tasks:

  1.  explain the factual origins of the statement;
  2. provide additional context or analysis of the statement;
  3. comment on the statement (sometimes humorously);  or
  4. offer additional information related to the statement’s topic.

PolitiFact partnered with Genius on the project, using the Genius software that provides what I would describe as either in-line or off-set annotation. (See it here.)

I love reading endnotes in books. Robert Caro’s endnotes for his biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson come to mind as particularly marvelous. One of my favorite novels, Infinite Jest, is famous for its copious footnotes.

Books Librarianship

Book Review: ‘The Bone Clocks’ by David Mitchell

David Mitchell is one of my favorite novelists, so I was happy to review his new book for the Tampa Bay Times. Here’s how it starts:

If you’re looking for a writer who can do any style or genre, then David Mitchell fits the bill.

His 2004 novel Cloud Atlas had it all, to an almost absurd degree: historical fiction, a detective story, modern literary farce and futuristic sci-fi fantasy. Cloud Atlas was more like a series of stitched-together short stories than a novel, but it pursued a unifying thematic thread: how human beings prey upon each other for their own ends, but occasionally do selfless things that point toward freedom.

Cloud Atlas was beguiling enough to capture the attention of Hollywood filmmakers, while Mitchell continued writing new books, including a realistic coming-of-age novel set in 1980s Britain (Black Swan Green) and an unconventional love story set in Nagasaki in 1799 (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet). Mitchell and his wife even tackled nonfiction, translating the memoir of an autistic Japanese teen, titled The Reason I Jump, into English.

Fans of Mitchell like me couldn’t help but wonder: What’s next?

Read the whole review.

Digital Fact-checking Journalism Librarianship

7 steps to better fact-checking

7 steps to better fact-checking

One of the things I think about a lot at PolitiFact is how to fact-check and how to improve fact-checking processes. The distillation of a lot of that thinking is in a column we posted this week, “7 steps to better fact-checking.” It’s a rundown of the how I approach research when I fact-check, and it’s heavily influenced by librarianship’s comprehensive approach to search.

Books Fact-checking History Journalism Librarianship Travel

The 2014 Global Fact-checking Summit in London (photo gallery)

In June, I attended the Global Fact-Checking Summit in London. About 50 fact-checkers from Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Australia attended. The conference was  hosted by the Poynter Institute, organized by Duke University’s Bill Adair (PolitiFact’s founding editor), and funded by the Omidyar Network, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Ford Foundation, craigconnects, the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Full Fact.

The conference was fantastic, and seeing London for the first time was a real treat. Here are a few photos and comments from my trip. Click on the first photo to launch the gallery.

Books History Librarianship Poetry Travel

Visiting the Folger Shakespeare Library

Last weekend we made a charming visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library, just a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol. The library is renowned for having more than 70 First Folios of Shakespeare’s plays (and depending on how you count, as many as 82), including one on view under glass with a neat interactive display.

Founders Henry Clay Folger and his wife Emily Jordan Folger were obsessed with collecting the folios in the early 1900s, and today the library focuses its collection on all materials related to Shakespeare, as well as materials from 1450 to the early 1700s.

We signed up for a tour of the Reading Room, which includes the marvelous stained glass window depicting scenes from the “seven ages of man” speech in As You Like It:

All the world ’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His Acts being seven ages. …

See Morgan Freeman deliver the full speech here (3 minutes).  My photo of the library window doesn’t really do it justice.

As You Like It

I was also fond of the statue of Puck; the base of the statue has an inscription from the character in A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Here’s its context from the play:

Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!


Finally, I include this marvelous bust of the Bard himself. I know there’s raging debate over which likenesses of Shakespeare are historically accurate. This one, I think, captures his artistic  spirit.


Cooking Librarianship

Managing my back issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine

I am a Cook’s Illustrated fanatic. That is not too strong of a word to express my devotion to that magazine. My grandmother was a wonderful cook, but for whatever reason, she didn’t pass down her skills to me. In her defense, I never asked. So I feel like Cook’s Illustrated taught me how to cook.

One of their many tag lines is, “Recipes that work.” And CI recipes really do work. If you follow the instructions exactly, the food is excellent. And after many years of following CI recipes to the letter, I finally learned my own technique. Little things, like how hot the pan has to be to put a good sear on a piece of meat. How to roast vegetables. When to pull the cookies out of the oven at the perfect moment.

After more than 10 years of Cook Illustrated issues arriving in the mailbox every other month, though, I do believe they have offered recipes for everything I’m in interested in cooking. Frankly, I noticed this for the first time about two years ago, but I was in denial. Now I’m admitting grudgingly that the heyday of Angie and Cook’s Illustrated is coming to its natural end. And frankly, I’m tired of keeping dozens of raggedy back issues organized in my kitchen’s limited space.

Fortunately for me, I have options — many options. What makes Cook’s Illustrated special has no ads, and this is a good thing. But it also means they’re always packaging and re-packaging their content, to sell it again and again. Thus the Cook’s Illustrated spin-offs of Cook’s Illustrated Online, America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country and The Best Recipe Cookbooks.

I’ve had a subscription to the website for sometime now, and it’s always been handy. It’s an instant index to the paper issues, for one. And sometimes I would decide at work to cook a certain recipe that night; it was wonderful to be able to log on and see the ingredients so I could stop at the store on the way home.

So here’s my plan to reorganize my own personal library of Cook’s Illustrated received wisdom: I’ve bought two giant CI cookbooks, The New Best Recipe (updated edition) and More Best Recipes. I’m storing my hard copy back issues in anticipation of recycling them at a future date. I will keep the website subscription. (And to be honest, I’m thinking of getting the iPad subscription to the magazine, too.)

Why this long, rambling post about all this? I think my relationship with Cook’s Illustrated is a case study in information management.

What I’m finding in this case is that sometimes more information isn’t better. It’s just more. I’m trying to find a way to get less information, but information that is more relevant to me and better organized. Sixty magazines are hard to keep organized. Two cookbooks are easy.