Just a quick post for today, since many of you are off on a sunny beach or a snowy ski slope (or busy wrangling kids with cabin fever after a few days vacation). I wanted to bring to your attention a neat little tool developed by Washington Post reporter Philip Bump. It’s a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox that fact checks Donald Trump’s tweets. Yeah, this is likely just preaching to the choir, as the only people who will use it are people who are already inclined to think Trump is lying. But, for those in the choir it’s kind of handy to have the fact checking built right in. That way you can get the accurate information to counter Trump’s bizarro version without even having to search for it.
Obviously if you use this extension, it’s a nice boon to The Washington Post’s traffic, but I’m pretty happy to send traffic their way, because – in a very disappointing season for the media — I think they did some of the best investigative reporting on Trump during the election (they had their fair share of bad, conventional wisdom-y stuff too). In particular David Fahrenthold’s series on the Trump Foundation deserves to win all the awards – and probably will. Trump’s scammy foundation may seem somewhat old news now, but Fahrenthold began looking into the Trump Foundation when no one was giving it even a scrap of attention. It turned out that the Trump Foundation was an untapped goldmine of newsworthy material that no one else had thought to investigate, despite the endless amounts of attention paid to the Clinton Foundation (both by reporters & by Trump on the campaign trail). It was only because of the questionable things Fahrenthold was uncovering that other outlets (and the New York Attorney General) began to give the Trump Foundation more scrutiny.
Fahrenthold was also the reporter who discovered during the primaries that Trump had not donated the $1 million that he had personally promised to veterans groups when he held a “fundraiser” in lieu of participating in the Fox News debate in Iowa. Only after Fahrenthold’s reporting turned the media glare on Trump, did Trump finally donate the money, many months after the initial promise was made. (Also thanks to Fahrenthold’s reporting, we know that was the first money Trump donated out of his own pocket since 2009, despite his constant boasts otherwise).
Anyway, the fact checking extension seems like a fun thing to play around with, and if nothing else, it’s heartening to see journalists exploring new ways to cover Trump. I hope they will continue to innovate, because he is certainly going to continue to ignore all norms & customs (like the post-election press conference: Trump hasn’t had a press conference since July) in ways that will make it extremely challenging for reporters to get information out to us and to hold him & his administration accountable.