Context

FACT CHECK: Roy Blunt leaves out the context of Missouri’s health insurance coverage

What I like most about fact checking — aside from working as a watchdog and attempting to hold elected officials accountable for their loose words — is the study of nuance. On the one hand, it can be a little terrifying, that facts, real and undebated ones, can still be so twisted to present a case so different from that of another interpretation. But on the other, it’s simply fascinating to see the way leaving out this tidbit, or adding that, can paint an entirely new picture.

Here, Roy Blunt made a good point: most of Missouri’s counties don’t have access to competitive insurance under the Obamacare marketplaces. But those counties didn’t make up the majority of the population. So, while he was trying to argue that most people in Missouri didn’t have access, what was actually going on was a valid issue about the coverage provided to those in rural areas.

Such a nuanced issue, though, is far harder to use as a persuasive topic of debate.

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Underestimated

FACT CHECK: Rep. Vicky Hartzler underestimated the lack of high-speed internet in Missouri

Working on fact checks can feel in some ways very different from my other reporting, though ostensibly the methods and concepts are the same. I guess the main dynamic difference I feel is that when I work the GA shift or my beat, those stories are here in Columbia, and much of these fact checks are national. I’m speaking to people in Washington, I’m emailing experts. It feels less grounded or connected. Though the work is very similar, and the finished product is as well.

What’s disconcerting about these types of stories, is working with politicians (or their aides). On this story, while I’m not 100 percent certain of this, I believe Hartzler’s team changed her figures on the original blog post after I contacted them. But not just that, they changed them to the wrong figures — when they had been right in the first place.

Asked for a source for her claim, her team sent me an outdated report, which came from the same website where a far newer and more dire report was also present. It was my first hands-on experience of being astounded by the carelessness of an elected official.

Curators

MU Health Care revenue up $58M, report to Curators shows

As someone still new to journalism, I feel like I’m continually working to understand the dynamics of being in a room as a reporter. What is my authority? What is my obligation? What is appropriate? What is my relationship to these people? Especially these very experienced people?

Sitting in on a meeting of the Board of Curators was one of the first situations that I felt very aware of my status as a reporter — and also one as student-reporter, as surely everyone in the room knew the Missourian was a student-run paper. I didn’t ever feel uncomfortable, but I felt very aware of myself, and my presence. I’m not exactly sure why, or what will change in the future, but it was an interesting experience.

It was also fascinating to witness the congratulatory nature of a governing board. Everything in the room felt spun to some extent — there was no bad news, every misstep, was still a step, and one in the right direction at that.

All of this, though, I’m not sure I realized in the moment. Which I think speaks back to the dynamic in the room. I was, to some extent, intimidated, and so I didn’t ask any good questions after the meeting. I likely wrote the story they were hoping would be written — not that I even know there was another story to be written, since I didn’t do all the work I likely could have, in retrospect.

Tribeca Shorts: ‘Tokyo Project’ With Elisabeth Moss, ‘For Flint,’ & ‘Approaching A Breakthrough’ [Review]

For Flint
For the general American public, the Flint, Michigan water crisis is over. The problem was identified, the public was outraged, the media coverage faded. But for those residents of Flint — a former industrial hub an hour north of Detroit — the catastrophe is far from finished: lawsuits are still ongoing, funds are being allocated, water lines are being replaced, and the drinking water for thousands of people is still poisonous. All of which is to avoid mentioning that the water crisis was the culmination of disaster in a once-prosperous city that has since faced severe hardship and mismanagement at the hands of government officials; Flint’s poverty rate is above 40 percent and the median household income is less than half of what it is in the rest of Michigan. The city, according to residents featured in Brian Schulz’s short documentary “For Flint,” has hit bottom, and the only place left to go is up. The rest…