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Campaign statements to get scrutiny at AZ Fact Check

August 19, 2010

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is partnering with The Arizona Republic and 12 News to provide Arizonans a new public service that evaluates the accuracy of claims made by politicians running for office this fall.

Eight students from Arizona State University are researching facts presented by candidates for public office. Their work will be printed in the Republic and published on the newspaper’s website, Some of the selections also will air on 12 News, the region’s NBC affiliate.

Students will cover races for U.S. Congress, the state Legislature, governor and attorney general as well as other elected positions and ballot propositions. Candidates’ statements and other information circulated by campaigns will be rated on a five-star scale, ranging from true to false.

“During an election season, statements and claims fly fast, and they aren’t always correct,” said Nicole Carroll, executive editor of The Arizona Republic and “Our job is to slow down, research what is being said and report the truth.”

The paid interns will work under the direction of John Leach, a Cronkite adjunct faculty member and veteran Arizona journalist, and will be mentored by editors and reporters at the Republic and 12 News.

“One of the most important things the news media do in an election year is help voters sort through candidates' competing claims, and AZ Fact Check will do just that,” Leach said. “Students from the Cronkite School will be checking statements made in campaign ads and brochures, candidate speeches and websites and other campaign materials and will be reporting what's correct, what's wrong and what's in that fuzzy area in between.”

The site will available free at starting at noon today.

Members of the public will be able to suggest candidate statements they think students should research.

The Arizona site follows in the footsteps of other political fact-checking sites, such as the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s and the St. Petersburg Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning, which covers Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas.

Kristin Gilger, associate dean of the Cronkite School, said AZ Fact Check is the latest Cronkite program that seeks to provide important news and information to Arizona audiences. Others include Cronkite NewsWatch, a daily student television newscast; Cronkite News Service, which provides daily news and enterprise reports to broadcast, online and print media outlets throughout the state; and News21, a national reporting initiative in which students produce in-depth and innovative work for the Web.