Univision launches first U.S. fact-checking project
Univision's newly launched Detector de Mentiras (Lie Detector), staffed by the network's new data unit, was supposed to provide fact-checking to the moderators for live use during the debate this past Wednesday, according to Poynter.
Ronny Rojas, data editor at Univision News Digital, told Poynter that his team's goal was initially "to interact with the candidates and to pass along to the moderators follow-up questions based on our findings after fact checking some of their statements."
Unfortunately, this proposal didn't make the cut as Univision and the DNC had ironed out the conditions of the debate.
Live fact-checking on air during debates has been attempted outside of the United States. In the Italian Democratic Party's primary debates of 2012/2013, broadcaster Sky confronted candidates with fact checks of their claims.
Rojas, formerly an investigative reporter at Costa Rica's La Nación, led a team of 10 to fact-check the debate online. The team focused on the candidates' statements on drivers' licenses for undocumented residents, Hillary Clinton's famously expensive speeches to Wall Street and the auto industry bailout.
"It was ambitious to launch this project on the night of an internationally televised debate, but they were prepared and it went quite well," Jane Elizabeth, who heads a project on accountability reporting for the American Press Institute and assisted with training, told Poynter
As the first U.S. based Spanish-language fact-checking project, Detector de Mentiras fits into a broader trend to expand the reach of journalism.
Rojas said his team studied English-language fact-checkers at PolitiFact and The Washington Post, but is keen to make Detector de Mentiras develop its distinct personality. While Univision "won't exclude anything" in terms of what it will fact-check, it will "put a focus on issues that are central to the Hispanic population" such as immigration, education and health care, Rojas said.
Beyond language and topics, Rojas hopes that Detector de Mentiras will stand out because it will rely more heavily on investigative reporting for its fact-checking.
This is in line with the background of the members of the data unit's team of five, composed primarily of investigative journalists from across Latin America.
Detector de Mentiras will be fact-checking U.S. presidential candidates throughout the general election campaign, reported Poynter.
After that, Rojas hopes to extend the team's scope and fact-check politicians across Latin America, as well as opinion leaders, business figures and entertainers, so long as the focus is issues of public interest.