Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind

Since June 2017, I have been researching the history of fact-checking as a profession. The position was created by TIME’s founders in 1923, and as the first weekly news magazine in the US, TIME served as an aggregator, culling stories from 300 newspapers. TIME’s reporting was advertised as “written after the most thorough and exhaustive scrutiny of news-sources.” However this “exhaustive scrutiny” was considered women’s work from its inception. Indeed early fact-checking manuals include instructions to confirm names, dates, etc., while the checkers maintain their “domestic list of chores.” Darning socks and facts. Ironing shirts and statements. Through this research, I aim to interrogate the historical association between women’s work and fact-checking, particularly within today’s “post-fact” information landscape.

One line of inquiry that has been my recent focus is inspired by the earliest advertisements for TIME magazine. These advertisements’ aim was to convey the superiority of buying a fact-checked, single news magazine. Each advertisement from the publication’s first year often relied on absurd metaphors—like catching “100 baseballs with a crab net” to describe the work done by the women fact-checkers. I am presently working with found objects and materials from the 1920s, creating tableaus, and photographing them forming a series of potentially confusing images inspired by each advertisement that visualize TIME’s absurd language describing the women’s labor.

Simultaneously, I am experimenting with carbonless paper both as a material and as a proxy for the simultaneous presence and absence of these women and their work. Fact-checkers used carbonless paper when marking-up manuscripts, so the copies could be distributed to TIME’s staff. The material responds to pressure, similarly to how photographic paper responds to light, resulting in ghostly imprints of information or touch. I hope to find a way to transform this traditionally corporate medium while simultaneously elevating the fact-checker’s marks.