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The Briefing: A 'Pro-Truth Pledge' to live by

WASHINGTON – If you share political news stories, memes and thoughts on Facebook or Twitter, you're a journalist now.

That being the case, you might want to consider living by the rules the professional scribes live by. You might want to consider taking the "Pro-Truth Pledge."

What is it? In shorthand, it's a promise to follow a venerable and important rule of journalism: When in doubt, check it out.

The brainchild of a team of people led by Gleb Tsipursky, now a former Ohio State history professor, the Pro-Truth Pledge aims to fight the era of fake news by making the battle everyone's responsibility.

"Our information ecosystem is broken," Tsipursky said last week. "One study found that two-thirds of the people are getting some of their news from social media. And unfortunately, a large amount of the information on social media is false."

That being the case, he said, it's incumbent on each of us to counter that trend by making sure that we share the truth and only the truth.

"If we don't fix the system, it's going to be a nightmare," Tsipursky said. "Our democracy is not going to survive."

Hence the Pro-Truth Pledge, which reads as follows:

I Pledge My Earnest Efforts To:

Share truth

Verify: Fact-check information to confirm it is true before accepting and sharing it.

Balance: Share the whole truth, even if some aspects do not support my opinion.

Cite: Share my sources so that others can verify my information.

Clarify: Distinguish between my opinion and the facts.

Honor truth

Acknowledge: Acknowledge when others share true information, even when we disagree otherwise.

Re-evaluate: Re-evaluate if my information is challenged, retract it if I cannot verify it.

Defend: Defend others when they come under attack for sharing true information, even when we disagree otherwise.

Align: Align my opinions and my actions with true information.

Encourage truth

Fix: Ask people to retract information that reliable sources have disproved even if they are my allies.

Educate: Compassionately inform those around me to stop using unreliable sources even if these sources support my opinion.

Defer: Recognize the opinions of experts as more likely to be accurate when the facts are disputed.

Celebrate: Celebrate those who retract incorrect statements and update their beliefs toward the truth.

The pledge sounds simple enough, and it is, so long as people are willing to put in the work to make it work.

And there are already some signs that the pledge is working. A study that Tsipursky did, which was published in the academic journal Behavior and Social Issues this week, found that of 21 people who took the Pro-Truth Pledge, all 21 got better at sharing the truth rather than fake news on Facebook once they started following the pledge's precepts.

Tsipursky developed the Pro-Truth Pledge after the 2016 presidential election, and more than 7,900 people – most of them private citizens – have signed it so far.

"It looks as if many of the public figures who’ve signed the pledge are – well – the kind of people who’d sign a group of professors’ Pro-Truth Pledge; I counted a LOT of academics, and also some politicians," Laura Hazard Owen, deputy editor of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, noted in a blog item in May.

Three Democratic members of the House – Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas – have taken it, as have 21 state legislators from across the country, and from both parties.

No prominent New York politicians have signed the pledge, but in fairness, many probably have not even heard of it. Word of the Pro-Truth Pledge is largely spreading through word of mouth, social media and the good old-fashioned print press.

Now you might be wondering: Who is this Gleb Tsipursky, and why is he so interested in the truth?

The answer is enlightening. An academic with a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, he left academia recently to work as a disaster avoidance expert and to promote the Pro-Truth Pledge.

His very name offers a clue as to why.

"My parents came here from Moldova," a former Soviet republic, he said. "It's very hard to see the kind of lies being spread here ... My parents left so we wouldn't have to deal with this sort of thing."

Happening today

President Trump leaves for the NATO summit in Brussels … Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with United Arab Emirates leaders in Abu Dhabi … The Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets to mark up a "Sense of the Senate" resolution reaffirming the importance of the NATO alliance … The Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets to vote on the nomination of Robert Wilkie to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs … The National Transportation Safety Board holds a hearing on the Dec. 18, 2017, Amtrak train derailment that claimed three lives in DuPont, Wash., as well as the February 4, 2018, Amtrak collision with a freight train near Cayce, S.C., that killed two Amtrak employees.

Good reads

The New York Times details the leadership struggles that both parties face in the House … Vox marvels at how far left Democrats are moving on immigration … The Atlantic says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may actually be safe from the left's wrath … The Washington Post notes that aides to President Trump are having a rude time of it in Washington … And all of Washington is talking about this highly speculative New York magazine piece about Trump's possible Russian connections.

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