Samuel Laurent, political journalist at LeMonde.fr talked about real-time fact checking today at "Les Nouvelles Pratiques du Journalisme" conference, hosted by the Ecole de Journalisme de Sciences Po, Paris, in collaboration with the Columbia Journalism School.
Fact-checking in real time - verifying the truth of statements made by politicians and public figures in real time during press conferences or public appearances - is becoming an important part of political communication nowadays, says Laurent.
The fact-checking in France, even if it's not completely developed, is growing. And it fits in with the Anglo-Saxon tradition of news watchdogging.
Real-time fact-checking has to be extremely fast to be effective. "You have to react immediately," Laurent says, "because a fact-check published one week after the statement doesn't have the same impact".
It's an ambitious job: it requires speed but, at the same time, enough knowledge to be able to contextualise statements. It demands the ability to provide the right link at the right moment. At lemonde.fr, a team of four journalists works on a real-time fact checking event: one's writing, one is dedicated to the community management and the other two to the contextualisation.
Fact-checkers must go deep before and after the event. Journalists need to be specialists of their subject matter and be well prepared. They have to be extremely wary and work in depth before the event as well as after.
"Fact-checking is not math, though," clarified Laurent, "it requires taking risks and acting in a fast environment".
The audience is also part of the fact-checking process at lemonde.fr. The blog Les Décodeurs asks the audience to participate and engage in the conversation. They can submit questions or suggest corrections.