POLITICS

Networks’ Challenge: Covering a Live Convention When Falsehoods Fly

Network executives are keeping teams of policy experts on standby this week to leap on-air at a moment’s notice, if producers determine that they should add context to what viewers are seeing onstage. A mix of on-screen graphics and captions may also be deployed to separate truth from falsehood.

Producers say they had the same fact-checking apparatus in place for last week’s Democratic National Convention. CNN, for instance, published several fact-checks on its website, with a reporter, Daniel Dale, writing that while Democrats spoke mostly in generalities or subjective opinions, “at least some of their assertions have been debatable or lacking in relevant context.”

In general, TV producers say they are inclined to air Mr. Trump’s remarks live, with clarifications and corrections offered as necessary.

“There are certain speeches in the political life of the country that the news networks treat as events the audience deserves to see: the State of the Union, an inaugural address, and convention speeches by the nominee and the running mate,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, who was an executive producer for coverage of six conventions at NBC News.

“These are singular events,” Mr. Lukasiewicz, now the dean of Hofstra University’s school of communications, added. “But the networks are going to struggle. How do you maintain an appearance of fairness and equity between the two parties’ political events, but deal with the fact that one candidate, you have every reason to believe, will not tell the truth?”

The Big Three broadcasters — ABC, CBS and NBC — may have an easier time of it this week.

With only one hour of coverage in prime-time at 10 p.m. — the same coverage allotted to the Democratic convention — these three networks already feature extensive analysis from anchors and pundits. If producers cut to reporters for real-time clarifications, it may not be jarring for viewers.

Other networks, including CNN, MSNBC and PBS, carried the entirety of the Democratic convention live and mostly unfiltered. Any decisions by those networks this week to cut away from a speech — and in particular, Mr. Trump’s remarks — is likely to draw intense criticism from Republicans and the president’s allies.


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