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Jul 22 / King Kaufman

Want to be smart during real-time coverage? Better think ahead

A CJR Behind the News piece asserts that “Twitter and factchecking don’t mix during debates.” Televised presidential debates, that is.

Writer David Uberti, citing a University of Texas study, points out that “most journalists resort to either stenography or snark when live-tweeting presidential debates.” That’s because everything’s moving too quickly to check facts on the fly.

You often have to, say, find some data and do some math to check a fact, and these things take time. By the time you’re able to show that Candidate A was playing fast and loose with the facts, the debate will have moved on to other subjects. It might even be over.

What’s this have to do with sportswriting?

Preparation. Thinking ahead. That’s how some organizations deal with the speed problem. Sportswriters don’t often factcheck assertions on the fly, but we do cover events in real time, and the more prepared we are, the more likely we’ll have something interesting and on-point to say at the moment it needs to be said.

Uberti writes:

Eugene Kiely, director of, said claims made in presidential debates usually require several hours to verify in their entirety. Some corners can be cut, he added, though doing so requires both instinct and preparation. Before debates in 2012 began, two staffers would “come up with a list of anticipated issues based on the debate topic—economy, foreign affairs, etc.—and write up potential tweets,” Kiely said. “And if these issues came up, they could then just send those tweets out.”

Instinct and preparation. What might happen at an upcoming event that would lead to a trenchant and timely tweet or live-blog update?