Reporter Daniel Dale gave the Snider Lecture at UTM on October 3, where he discussed his reporting on Donald Trump and the Ford brothers, as well as disseminating truth in a precarious media landscape.
Dale works for CNN as part of the fact-checking team and was previously a reporter at the Toronto Star for 11 years. His efforts to fact check Trump’s every comment and tweet has gained him international attention and a sizeable Twitter following — over 619,000 strong as of October 6.
However, it was here in Toronto, while reporting on the former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and current Ontario Premier Doug Ford, that Dale first delved deeply into the practice of fact checking and outwardly pointing out false political claims.
After Rob Ford falsely accused Dale of peering over his family home’s fence, he wrote an article for the Star titled, “Rob Ford is lying about me, and it’s vile.” This prompted Dale to think that, “if I can use the word ‘lie’ in a story about me, why can’t I use it in all the other stories?”
He went on to create a “campaign lie detector where [he] would count… how many false, inaccurate, dubious claims the candidates made.” Dale noticed there was a disparity in the number of lies Rob Ford would tell in comparison to the other candidates and thought that “the disparity was important in itself… that disparity told the story.”
Soon after, Dale went to Washington, DC and “was sure that it was going to be much more normal… and of course, Donald Trump comes along in June.”
Dale found it “distressing how much Donald Trump was lying… and not only the frequency of the lying, but the triviality of the lying.” He noticed that news outlets and papers were reporting what Trump said, without identifying false claims to be as such.
In order to promote what he calls “a truth-centric model of political journalism,” Dale suggests that the media engage in a number of practices, including that no one should “quote a politician saying something false without noting that it is false,” using the term “lie” when it is the most accurate way to describe a claim, and giving less airtime to political figures that have a history of deception.
Dale often encounters people who think his work is useless and that “facts obviously don’t matter in this era,” to which he responds: “what is the job of a journalist in democracy, if not to provide accurate information to whoever wants it?”
The president still has supporters despite what Dale describes as a “full-blown truth crisis with Donald Trump.” However, in an article for the Star entitled “Donald Trump voters: We like the president’s lies.” he points out that many Trump supporters do not believe the president’s every word without question.
The Varsity caught up with Dale after his lecture to inquire if he was seeing any trends in Trump’s lying in the lead up to the 2020 US Presidential election. “Over his first two years in office, immigration was his number one subject of dishonesty,” said Dale. “Over the summer, it’s been the economy and trade, and I think that reflects concerns about… a possible recession… some sort of slow down.”