From Public Reason to Public Health: Professional Implications of the “Debunking Turn” in the Global Fact-Checking Field
Published in Digital Journalism, 2023
This article examines the dramatic shift in the global field of fact-checking organizations since 2016, from checking claims by politicians and other public figures to policing viral misinformation on social networks. What practitioners call “debunking,” once a minor focus, now dominates the agenda of leading outlets and accounts for the bulk of fact-checks produced worldwide, driven in part by commercial partnerships between fact-checkers and platform companies. This study investigates what this sudden realignment means for fact-checkers themselves, drawing on interviews and meta-journalistic discourse to examine the impact on how these organizations assign value and draw boundaries in their growing transnational field. We highlight different discursive strategies fact-checkers use to explain the debunking turn, depending on their own field position, and show how shifting boundaries reflect wider concerns about autonomy from platform partners. We suggest that debunking discourse illustrates an incipient shift away from the “public reason” model implicit in journalism’s professional logic, to a more instrumental, “public health” model of newswork adapted to a digital media environment dominated by platform companies.
Recommended citation: L Graves, V Bélair-Gagnon, R Larsen. (2023) "From Public Reason to Public Health: Professional Implications of the “Debunking Turn” in the Global Fact-Checking Field". Digital Journalism. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21670811.2023.2218454