A Tutorial on Fact Checking
In a world of “fake news” and “alternative facts” it is a good idea to know more about the process of getting to the actual facts in story. This is especially true as we are now running head-on into the presidential election. Facts, fiction, and outright falsehoods will be coming at us fast and furiously.
The Atlantic has been published since 1857 and is one of the most highly regarded publications in the United States. The magazine has tried to stay out of politics, endorsing only three candidates for president in its history: Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, in 1860; Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, in 1964; and Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat, in 2016. In addition, the magazine did publicly call for the impeachment of Donald Trump in March, 2019. Given it has weighed in only four times in 163 years, The Atlantic is not quick to jump into politics. When it does, it does so with care.
Recently The Atlantic published something I have not seen before. Yvonne Rolzhausen, the research chief at The Atlantic wrote the article, Word by Word, Line by Line: How to Fact Check the Atlantic to describe the process of fact checking at the magazine. Her article takes us through a seven-step process the The Atlantic uses before it publishes feature stories.
The process is impressive. It is not unlike the process learned by doctoral level qualitative researchers to ensure the trustworthiness of our findings. And, in this case, Rolzhausen clearly and concisely describes the process. The Atlantic’s process helps us understand the functioning of a publication with high standards for journalistic integrity.
Despite the criticisms of traditional, mainstay, and mainstream media, all have similar processes each uses. In the case of daily publications, I imagine it has to be particularly challenging because of their deadlines. Still, they seem to have streamlined their processes. However, certainty of the facts is still their North Star. The best of them do not go to press or on the air until they are certain of the facts. The better of the best are quick to admit when they have made a mistake, no matter how costly the error. Such commitment to facts demonstrates the leadership they are willing to provide at a time when they suffer the sharp criticism of those who are not fond of the free press.
In summarizing the role of the fact checker, Rolzhausen wrote:
Part detective, part therapist, part comrade-in-arms, fact-checkers should, above all, be guardian angels sitting on an author’s shoulder, making sure that their arguments are based in fact, rather than supposition.Yvonne Rolzhausen
This is one reason why I appreciate The Atlantic and the long tradition of journalistic integrity it, and other publications which are the best of the best, follows.
For the Love of Penguins
I have already confessed my love of penguins, or, in Spanish, “pingüinos” so this brief highlight should come as no surprise. This week I learned of two things.
First, I learned that knitted sweaters help protect penguins which have been caught in oil pollution in the oceans. If they have been caught in oil, penguins will attempt to preen and clean the oil off. However, the oil is toxic to them. Therefore, when they are rescued from oil pollution, Knits for Nature will outfit each temporarily with little knitted sweater jumpers to keep them from inadvertently ingesting the toxic oil.
Second, I learned about the knit jumpers for penguins from a very sweet article about a 109-year-old Australian man, Alfie Date, who spent his last years knitting the jumpers for penguins.
In a day of such difficult news all around us, we need an occasional uplifting story. Take a couple of minutes to check out Knits for Nature and Alfie Date’s story.
Defining “White Evangelicals”
In my last post I indicated that I would be returning to the phenomenon of White Evangelical support for Donald Trump that I began over two years ago. Today I want to define what I mean by White Evangelicals.
I am adopting the terminology of the Pew Research Center, which has studied the intersection of politics and religion for a number of years. Pew classifies White Evangelicals under the broader category of Protestant. “White” is a racial classification. “Evangelical” refers to set of specific beliefs and values held by some Protestants.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has a section on its website devoted specifically to defining the term “evangelical” in research. The NAE “developed a tool to provide a consistent standard for identification of evangelical belief” to inform research which sought to include participation by evangelicals. The standard includes “four statements to which respondents must strongly agree to be categorized as evangelical.”
The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.Source: National Association of Evangelicals, retrieved August 16, 2020
I think you can agree with me that it seems reasonable to accept these criteria from the NAE to be best representative and most useful in defining the term “evangelical.” The NAE recognizes that as a community it “brings together Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and other” religious traditions. Regardless, evangelicals within each of those traditions, to be considered evangelical, must “strongly agree” with each of the four statements.
Hence, when I write of White Evangelicals, I am referring to a group of Protestants who identify racially as white and who, according to the NAE, “strongly agree” with each of the four criteria.
In 2018 the Pew Research Center considered how American’s tend to identify themselves religiously. As a result, Pew came up with a new typology of religion in America based on traits rather than labels. The majority of White Evangelicals were found in two of three groups that were considered to be “Highly Religious.” Specifically, 46% of White Evangelicals identified as “Sunday Stalwarts” and 41% percent as “God-and-Country Believers.” Here’s how Pew defines these two subgroups:
Sunday Stalwarts are the most religious group. Not only do they actively practice their faith, but they also are deeply involved in their religious congregations. God-and-Country Believers are less active in church groups or other religious organizations, but, like Sunday Stalwarts, they hold many traditional religious beliefs and tilt right on social and political issues. They are the most likely of any group to see immigrants as a threat.Source: Pew Research Center, The Religious Typology, August 29, 2018
Looking ahead, I am going to take a closer look at the Pew Research Center’s data on White Evangelical support of Trump compared with other relgious groups.
Chickenman – Episode 92 – Only 5 left!
Benton Harbor, the former Chickenman, sits alone in his former Chicken Cave contemplating the end of his crime fighting career.