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Philadelphia Fact Check Office

For Brooks Jackson — director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s project — working over the internet is, in many ways, easier than his previous job as a political commentator on CNN. “Not only do you not have to wear a tie, or even any pants, in theory — no one knows what zip code you’re in,” he said.

The last of these will allow Jackson to work from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area as FactCheck headquarters move from Washington to the Annenberg Public Policy Center building, at 36th and Walnut streets. The organization’s new location will afford many more Penn students the opportunity to work with the influential political watchdog during the academic year.

FactCheck is a nonpartisan and nonprofit project founded by Brooks and Annenberg Public Policy Center director Kathleen Hall Jamieson in December 2003. According to Brooks, “the original idea was to write about deception in the 2004 primary election” after fact checking statements made by presidential candidates in speeches and in campaign ads.

But when the site’s web traffic started averaging 100,000 hits per day, “it became clear it wasn’t something we could walk away from,” he said.

According to Jackson, the lease on FactCheck’s Washington office ends early in 2011. However, the Public Policy Center moved into a new building on campus and had additional space, “so it was a no-brainer financial decision,” according to Jackson.

Jackson said the Washington office will shut down after the midterm election this November. Until that time, FactCheck will be on a “split operation” with the newly-staffed Philadelphia office, headed by director Eugene Kiely.

According to Kiely, the move affords FactCheck an opportunity to reach out to Penn students.

“In past summers, there would be interns who spend time at FactCheck from Penn — but now with the chance to do work up here, they’re more involved and getting opportunities to do more writing and researching,” Kiely said. “There’s continuity now, and not just a couple of months in the summer.”

“Six to eight competitively selected students will be given one year 10-15 hour appointments as FactCheck researchers,” Jamieson wrote in an e-mail, adding that preference would be given to Communication majors and those who receive an A in her Introduction to Political Communication class.

One such student, College junior and 34th Street Magazine Food & Drink editor Josh Goldman, became interested in FactCheck after taking a class with Jamieson.

“We read a bunch of FactCheck articles in class and talked about debunking false claims and how lots of politicians will deceive or mislead purposefully,” Goldman said. He added that he was encouraged to apply to FactCheck by Jamieson.

Goldman highlighted a piece in which he debunked rumors about President Barack Obama turning down foreign offers to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “I was contacted by some Congressman’s office — also, the article is referred to in the Miami Herald, which was really cool,” he said.

Goldman said his experience “seems like a good precursor for whether I end up working with FactCheck specifically, or with a different political news-type organization.”

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