TruthBeTold.news (formerly called HU Insight) is a non-profit, non-partisan website and digital network, run and edited from Howard University’s Department of Media, Journalism and Film in the School of Communications. It uses journalistic skills and crowdsourced information to play a leading role by examining claims about the black community in public debate. It also serves as a fun but, serious learning environment for students to teach them advanced reporting tools in a way that is engaging and allows them to use the social media skills they already possess.
“There are more black men in jail than college.”
“High rates of HIV among black women is being caused by black men on the ‘down low.’”
“It’s mostly black people on food stamps.”
“Most crime is committed by black people.”
“Black women have more children out of wedlock.”
These are just a few of the claims made about the African-American community in print and broadcast media outlets, talk radio and in daily conversations and online. And since most of the claims are never refuted or explained in context, they are repeated, recycled and ultimately become conventional wisdom. TruthBeTold.news serves as a counterbalance.
It provides a weekly stream of articles, video, graphics, crowdsourcing and social media posts that investigates and examines the claims by interviewing experts, examining documents and putting the information in the proper context.
TruthBeTold.news is a web-based journalism site and digital network hosted by the School of Communications at Howard University and staffed by reporting students. TruthBeTold.news serves two purposes: it teaches students advanced techniques in interviewing, research and writing and provide a public service by examining cultural, political and social claims made about the African-American community.
Fact-checking journalism has emerged as a critical part of American journalism over the last decade. The number of fact-checking journalism sites have proliferated, and most mainstream media organizations have them. One, Politifact, owned and operated by the Tampa Bay Times, was the first fact-checking journalism site to win a Pulitzer Prize. The site serves as a check against the he said / she said mode of journalism that dominates most publications, except for the occasional investigative story. Despite the number of growth of these fact-checking sites and their increasing importance to the field of journalism, there are few, if any, devoted specifically to examine issues of importance to the African-American community. TruthBeTold.news would fill that void. And where other sites mainly focus on politics, TruthBeTold.news will broaden its reach to include any and all claims made about the conditions, habits or culture of the black community.
The project will fill a void in the media landscape while raising the bar for professional and student journalists. It will challenge Howard students and faculty to run faster and dig deeper to find the truth about black people. Students will learn to look harder behind the numbers, to question conventional wisdom, to veer from the pack of journalists, to maximize their critical-thinking skills and to develop a healthy sense of skepticism.
The project follows substantial changes we have made within the School of Communications to update our curriculum for the digital age. We have reorganized departments, revamping our curriculum as well as the leadership. While we have been using the teaching hospital model for quite some time, this project would allow us to push students to go deeper behind news and information to deliver a public service. This would also provide more public affairs opportunities for students to cover Capitol Hill and federal agencies.
The educational experience is above and beyond current learning by helping students step outside their comfort zones and think outside the box to refute or verify information. As part of our transmedia gentrification initiative, one potential project is to have students investigate the myths, truths and coincidences behind “The Plan,” a commonly held belief among black Washingtonians of a long-term, district-wide conspiracy to turn the “Chocolate City” vanilla or at least Neapolitan. This project, for example, would require extensive interviews, a deep dive into public records, analysis by experts to explain how various economic development plans might have contributed to this notion, etc. TruthBeTold.news will provide more engaging ways for students to learn about and use database reporting.