The Lincoln spoof aimed at high school and college students is featured on Flackcheck.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Web site launched Thursday with the goal of encouraging journalists and the public to be more vigilant in truth-squadding misleading political ads and candidates’ statements.
Those who are vigilant about such nefarious activities are probably familiar with Factcheck.org, which was started in 2003 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg center, who founded Factcheck along with former CNN reporter Brooks Jackson, describes Flackcheck as a playful sibling to the serious Factcheck.
The idea is to use digital dazzle, games and humor to hook people into questioning the political information they consume and encourage them to read journalism from serious news sources.
“We’re trying to provide another way of increasing available information to the electorate about accurate positions of the candidates,” Jamieson said in an interview this week.
Once the site begins to generate a critical mass of users, Jamieson said, the staff will track how many people who watch a video go on to look at related content at Factcheck.org.
Flackcheck has a staff of 13, including three comedy writers, animators and film and video producers. The project is funded by the Annenberg Foundation and the Omidyar Network, a foundation run by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.
Jamieson said she and Jackson founded the original site, which has 87,000 subscribers, out of a concern that “the news media, which had been doing a good job of fact-checking in 1996 and 1992, had started to walk away from the fact-checking function because newsrooms were starting to get smaller, there were more one-newspaper towns and news organizations no longer had the resources to put into it.” (The Washington Post’s own truth-squading feature, called “The Fact Checker,” is still thriving.)
Flackcheck includes educational segments that Jamieson hopes will engage students, as well as fun-loving adults, in learning about questionable political tactics. In the feature imagining how Lincoln would fare in today’s political climate, another ad takes phrases from his famous Gettysburg address and uses them to suggest that the Civil War was not worth fighting.
In a game called “They Said What?!” players are asked to guess which person Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich refers to as a socialist: Karl Marx, Robert Owen or President Obama?
But as with the original site, a major focus is monitoring the media’s coverage of political ads, in addition to the ads themselves. Jamieson says that reporting on the ads, and airing the most sensational allegations without correcting them, spreads misinformation.