Ever hot on the heels of politicians, straightening the fact from the fiction, the Washington Post has decided to take their methods to real-time reporting with their new system, Truth Teller. Funded by a prototype grant from the Knight News Challenge, Truth Teller is a mobile and desktop app that will be able to record, transcribe and show disputed facts and statistics in real time for everyone. Although still in its nascent stages, the end result would be an app that simultaneously transcribes speeches obtained via video (or, ideally, a live feed), recognizes citations of data or popular keywords, and matches them with fact-checked information from the WaPo staff. It’s not only the cutting edge of fact-checking journalism — it has the capacity to change the way people consume their political media.
The early stages of development, namely the available prototype on the paper’s website, show a promising (if still buggy) interface. The best example of the way that Truth Teller presents facts seamlessly is through its prototype of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s post-election speech on taxes. The Truth Teller system not only points out statistical references within Boehner’s speech for fact-checking, but also finds concepts buried deep in context and checks those as well. And all of the pieces of the system, from transcription to location and confirmation, work together seamlessly to show facts right as the user sees them.
“What you see in the prototype is actual live fact checking — each time the video is played the fact checking starts anew,” writes Washington Post Executive Director for Digital News Cory Haik in the app’s About page.
But there’s still plenty of kinks to work out, the least of which is sharpening the transcription interface — a system that has the tendency to compute misspellings and turn the audio into a jumbled mess visually. This is really pronounced in fact-checking a fast-talking Fox News segment that appears nearly incomprehensible in the transcribed version. Plenty of work needs to be done to ensure accessibility in addition to perfecting the fact-checking system itself, so there’s a lot of work on the horizon for the Truth Teller team.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.