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Duke Ad Watch: We view the campaign ads so fact-checkers don’t have to

Reporters' Lab students will watch the campaign ads this fall in an effort to assist fact-checkers nationwide

By Rebecca Iannucci – September 8, 2016 | Print this article

With the fall political campaign underway, students in the Duke Reporters’ Lab are involved in an unusual project to help the nation’s fact-checkers. The students spend hours every day watching campaign commercials.

The goal of the Duke Ad Watch is simple: We watch the ads so fact-checkers don’t have to.

The project is a partnership with the Political TV Ad Archive, which is compiling a database of campaign ads airing nationwide. Students in the Reporters’ Lab are watching each ad to find the most interesting, provocative and important claims that are worth fact-checking. The Lab then alerts fact-checkers every day with a list of claims that could be checked.

Reporters’ Lab students will also be writing occasional articles about the trends and themes they see in the campaign ads. Are candidates using the same grainy news footage in cookie-cutter ads? Are many campaigns using the same ominous narrator? Duke students will spot those trends because they’ll be seeing so many ads.

The Duke Ad Watch officially began in January, but the project became dormant during the summer months. Now that classes have resumed, students will be working with the campaign ads through Election Day, Nov. 8.

You can see a running list of the claims we find in our open database. And watch for articles about trends and themes here in the Reporters’ Lab blog. For more information, contact Rebecca Iannucci at