Salvador Rizzo has been part of the three-person Washington Post Fact Checker team since 2018. He told KidsPost that he and his colleagues Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly are like referees when a politician says or posts something.
“Was it a mistake?” Wasn’t that a fault? Rizzo said. “Someone comes in and looks at all the evidence.”
How do they understand it? By going through many documents and discussing with experts.
“I know how to find people,” Rizzo said. This is in part because he worked as a political reporter in New Jersey for seven years. His experience in local politics prepared him to work on national politics.
“You always want to use the most trusted, trusted sources you can find,” Rizzo said. “You want people who can pretty much communicate the facts, not their opinion.”
Government agencies keep records and collect data, much of which is publicly available. Fact-checkers know how to access information and will do the job most Americans don’t have the time to do. When the team posts a story or video, it lets readers know which recordings they used to investigate.
“This is very important; we always try to give readers links to all the source documents,” he said.
After reviewing documents and speaking to experts, Rizzo assesses the candidate’s statement as to its veracity. Instead of using the stars like movie critics do, he gives Pinocchios. (You probably remember Pinocchio being the children’s book character whose nose grows when he tells a lie.) A Pinocchio would be an essentially true statement. The biggest lie or misleading statement would win four Pinocchios.
“The reason we have a ladder is in life and in politics it is often not clear whether something is 100% true or false,” he said.
Asked about statements he has labeled four Pinocchios over the past few months, Rizzo mentioned one about voter fraud on mail ballots. These ballots are especially important this year, as many Americans vote by mail so they don’t have to stand in line on election day and potentially expose themselves to the coronavirus. Voters must sign their ballot by mail.
“The signature is very important. This means that it was you “who filled out the ballot,” Rizzo said.
Without a signature, it would be easier for one person to fill out someone else’s ballot. It would be against the law.
“[President] Trump says Democrats want to remove this requirement. This is totally wrong. In no state is anyone trying to get rid of the signature. “
You might be wondering what happens next. A referee can sanction a player for a foul, but fact-checkers have no official power. Politicians are aware of the scoring system, however, and don’t like getting Pinocchios.
“Sometimes they [take back] claim, ”Rizzo said. “In some cases the politician will call us, which is rare. We will tell the readers.
If the candidate agrees to edit the post to be accurate before the story is released, sometimes the team won’t give Pinocchio a rating, Rizzo said. This is because the process is not about catching politicians lying.
“The goal is never to punish people,” he said. “The goal is to set the record straight for readers.”