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Face the Facts USA Launches Today
The new nonpartisan initiative features research, multimedia from GW students.
July 30, 2012
For the next 100 days, a mostly student team of researchers, video producers and editors will reveal myth-busting facts about important national issues to launch the first phase of a new interactive project from GW.
Face the Facts USA, a project of the George Washington School of Media and Public Affairs, is a nonpartisan, multiplatform content hub and civic engagement initiative that will help voters become more informed on today’s most important topics using pop culture-themed digital videos, lively infographics and extensive social media.
“Although we live in a blizzard of information, the irony is that we are often left without clear facts about our biggest issues,” said Frank Sesno, director of GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs and chief executive of Face the Facts USA. “The electorate has good reason to be confused and turned off by the avalanche of assertion and partisan noise making. But our hope with Face the Facts USA is that we can draw voters in fueled entirely on the power of information.”
Every day, Face the Facts USA will reveal a fact mined from 10 categories of national interest, including debt and deficits, jobs and the economy and health care. Each fact will be augmented by a deep archive of information, discussion and interactive tools. The user, upon seeing the facts, can also peruse “Details on Demand” — original source information, essays and commentary, citizen conversation and related content.
Today’s fact focuses on the growth rate of the federal deficit and is illustrated with a short video.
The team behind Face the Facts includes a multidisciplinary group of student researchers and professional editors who produce and review each fact and verify all supporting citations to ensure accuracy, primary source attribution and no partisan bias.
As research director for the project, SMPA graduate student Melissa Mapes supervises a team of six GW student and alumni researchers to find 10 facts in each of the 10 different categories. Ms. Mapes, who also works as Mr. Sesno’s teaching assistant, said the team combed through primary sources to determine “the issues that public should know about.” Each fact went through three editors and a fact checker before it was deemed complete.
“We realized in our research how frequently articles will state facts without naming a source, and it will often come from a biased place,” said Ms. Mapes. “We always look at primary source data to make it as unbiased as possible, so that’s been really interesting and very educational. I’ve become quite good at cocktail party conversations— I now always have a fact to spout out!”
As facts are released, Ms. Mapes said the research team will be active on social media to address comments or questions.
“We want to be as engaged and interactive as possible so we aren’t just sharing information but working with the general public so they understand what we’re telling them and allow them to be a part of everything,” she said.
In addition, there are students from SMPA and The Documentary Center, the University of Southern California and Arizona State University who produce videos for Face the Facts USA.
Junior Stacie Buell, a political communication major, is one of six people on the GW student video team. For the past two months, Ms. Buell and her video producers have been tasked with interviewing sources, shooting and editing fact videos for the website.
An assistant editor for the GW Hatchet multimedia team, Ms. Buell said the producing process has been very collaborative.
“The process of being a producer is really interesting—figuring out the story angle and going out to find it and then put it together in a nicely edited package,” she said. “To me, it’s the art of storytelling.”
Ms. Buell said her experience with Face the Facts USA will be a nice addition to her professional portfolio.
“SMPA really is a center for innovative media,” she said. “This work has expanded what I can do with my degree.”
Face the Facts USA is working with Google, YouTube, AmericaSpeaks and numerous online media and civic partners—including Atlantic Media, The Huffington Post, Newsmax, Digital First Media, VOXXI, Concord Coalition, SnagFilms and others-—to deliver its facts to a broad and diverse audience. In the weeks before the 2012 election, Face the Facts USA will be announcing a slate of online events, including Google hangouts, Spreecasts and streamed events from GW featuring leading policy experts.
The initiative is overseen by a bipartisan advisory board which includes philanthropist Ed Scott, Face the Facts USA founder and advisory board chair; former president of CBS News Andrew Heyward; and former Sen. Chuck Hagel.
“Facts, not rants, should be the basis for civil conversation and engagement in the political process,” said Mr. Scott. “Our users will be presented with facts crisply and clearly, in understandable context, and free of partisan distortion. Fact the Facts USA will be the space for users to learn, engage, discuss our country’s challenges and how, as informed citizens, they can put that knowledge to use.”