Column | Fake news? How to find the truth behind the spin

Karla Peterson Contact Reporter

President Trump says he signed the first military pay raise in 10 years. Did he?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said two-thirds of the people who use Medicaid are poor children, but two-thirds of Medicaid’s money goes to long-term care for seniors. Is she right?

One of your Facebook friends says teens are swallowing laundry-detergent pods as part of a “Tide Pod Challenge.” Are they?

The answers to the above are, “No,” “No” and “Eww, yes.” The truth comes courtesy of, and, three nonpartisan organizations devoted to separating fake news from the real thing, whether the news is coming from the White House or your Facebook feed.

None of these organizations receive funding from political parties or special interest groups, and none of them has a paywall standing between you and their information. And in this age of 24/7 information and misinformation, all of them provide you a clear path through the media jungle. Here is a look at the people who are carrying a mean machete so you won’t have to.

A long-term project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is dedicated to determining the accuracy quotient in everything from political speeches and newspaper editorials to campaign ads and Facebook posts.

Best quickie:
If political spin is making your head swim, your port in the storm is “The Wire,” a nonpartisan round-up of stories that ferret out the truth behind some of our more eye-catching political headlines. Neither party is spared, so put your outrage on hold.

Best rabbit hole:
That would be the Ask FactCheck Archives, where your burning questions about the border wall, Parkland shooting “crisis actors” and weird Denzel Washington rumors are answered in patient detail.

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for its coverage of the 2008 election, was owned by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper until 2018, when ownership was transferred to the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

With help from its eye-catching “Truth-O-Meter” icon, (and its PunditFact pages) rate statements made by political figures and pundits as “True,” “Mostly True,” Half True,” “Mostly False,” “False” and the incendiary “Pants on Fire.” The latter designation is reserved for statements that are both inaccurate and ridiculous.

Best quickie:
The Truth-O-Meter page catalogs PolitiFact’s latest investigations, with each statement accessorized with a Truth-O-Meter graphic and a one-sentence explanation of what tipped the needle.

Best rabbit hole:
The Pants-on-Fire! page, which is a deep dive into all of the insane and/or ill-informed statements to receive PolitiFact’s hellfire rating. This is where 9/11 conspiracies and Hillary Clinton death hoaxes go to fry.

The San Diego-based website was founded in 1994 by David Mikkelson for the noble purpose of researching urban legends. It now also investigates political questions (“Did President Trump revoke gun background checks for mentally ill people?”); viral photographs (“Did this man really carry his horse to safety after it was bitten by a snake?”); and clickbait rumors (“Are cut onions more dangerous than spoiled mayonnaise?”).

Best quickie:
The best way to get a handle on this eclectic site is the “Fact Check” section, which gives you the Snopes skinny on all the weird news that someone saw fit to post or print. It could be a true image of the Ayatollah Khamenei reading a copy of “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s anti-Trump expose, or a look at a Fox News analyst’s debunked claim that Sen. John McCain cracked under torture.

Best rabbit hole
: The Snopes Archive organizes past stories by category and by rating. So whether you want a Disney deep dive, a look at bizarre Coke rumors or a guide to scams, it’s all there for the reading and sharing. Tell them Big Foot sent you.

Want more?

The San Diego Public Library’s “Breaking News @ The Library” series has two upcoming “Citizen Journalist” workshops dedicated to the basics of the news business, including how to tell the difference between real news and fake news: May 16 at 6 p.m. at the Kensington-Normal Heights Library and May 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the La Jolla/Riford Library. The sessions are presented by the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists and the San Diego Press Club.