A common misperception among communications pros is that everything they post online should be amusing or cutting edge. Yet what usually drives the public's interest on the Internet is the search for facts, data, and opinions, says EchoDitto principal Brian Reich. By creating a fact-check box, consumers interested in a somewhat-controversial topic will eventually reach the correct information, he adds.
"Substantive information goes a lot further than information that is simply entertaining," Reich notes. "If another candidate maligns you [or] if the media misrepresents you, these fact-check sites can correct the course. If you put information out there, people will find it."
Groups must walk a fine line between effectively correcting the record and adding weight or momentum to false or negative information already on the Web, says Brian Lustig, president of Lustig Communications.
"The challenge in deciding what rumors to respond to is determining [if] the response simply extends the media shelf life of a story and inadvertently brings it to the attention of even more people," he explains.
For instance, if an outage affects only 2% of a phone company's customers, it might ponder the value of posting information that could make its service seem less efficient than it actually is, Lustig says.
- Web site fact-check sections help counter negative or inaccurate information
- As with traditional media outlets, sometimes it is better not to repeat false information online
- A blog, instead of a standalone fact-check section, can place negative information in a broader context