United Facts of America’s focus turns to disinformation in health care and online

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The three-day United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking heads into its final day, Sept. 29, with a full slate of online presentations, headlined by a discussion of disinformation linked to health care.

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is presenting the conference with PolitiFact, its Pulitzer Prize-winning enterprise.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, debates about whether to get, or skip, vaccines pushed physicians to the forefront and emphasized their critical role in fighting misinformation. (PolitiFact has posted dozens of fact-checks related to the pandemic, frequently tapping medical experts to sort facts.)

On Sept. 29, American Medical Association President Dr. Jack Resneck will join Kaiser Health News Partnerships Editor and Senior Correspondent Mary Agnes Carey to discuss health care disinformation.

Resneck, a practicing dermatologist and health care policy expert, joined the American Medical Association board of trustees in 2014 and was its chair from 2018 to 2019. He became association president in June 2022.

Beyond debunking health care-related falsehoods, Sept. 29’s conference slate will include two talks on online disinformation.

CNN Correspondent Donie O’Sullivan and PolitiFact Editor-in-Chief Angie Drobnic Holan will present “The Real World Of Online Misinformation,” a discussion of how social media platforms, Congress and the American intelligence community are responding to online disinformation and trolls.

O’Sullivan, who covers the intersection of politics and technology, has reported nationally on conspiracy theories’ effect on voter attitudes about the US response to COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election. He also reported live from the US Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riots.

In a second talk, Reuters’ Christina Anagnostopoulos, Agence France-Presse’s Arthur MacMillan and USA Today’s Martina Stewart will discuss how news consumers can examine news critically and better spot disinformation.

See the full schedule. Register here.

Sept. 28’s highlights included PolitiFact Managing Editor Katie Sanders’ headlining discussion with PBS NewsHour anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff about the 2022 midterm elections and related misinformation.

When asked how she keeps her composure when reporting about false, sometimes outlandish, information, Woodruff said shedan on a bedrock principle she has kept for five decades in journalism — keeping her opinions to herself and focusing on the facts.

“I understand that I have an obligation as the face of the NewsHour to hold it together … and not to get carried away in any direction,” she said, later adding, “I don’t remember a time when it was more important to be focused on the facts and not to let it all make us … emotionally charged by what’s going on.”

Sept. 28 also featured a discussion with former Fox News Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who called Arizona for Joe Biden during the 2020 election, angering then-incumbent President Donald Trump and drawing backlash from Trump’s supporters.

In his UFA discussion, Stirewalt talked about his January 2021 dismissal by Fox News and whether there’s a distinction between “opinion journalism,” which reflects reporters’ viewpoints, and neutral, straight-ahead coverage.

“Good opinion journalism is journalism,” he said, citing editorial pages from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post. “I think that sophisticated consumers know the difference between opinion and reporting, and the shady space where I operate, analysis.”