TEGNA-owned ABC affiliate’s VERIFY Road Trip is an offshoot of the station group’s VERIFY fact-checking initiative.

WFAA Verify

Euthanizing shelter animals was the topic of a WFAA Verify investigation

At a time when the veracity of media is under attack, WFAA-TV Dallas is showing viewers the painstaking work that goes into reporting news stories — by having them do it.

The TEGNA-owned ABC affiliate’s VERIFY Road Trip initiative is built around the idea of inviting members of the public to join journalists in investigating stories covering local issues from start to finish. And participants are not just observers. In some cases, the segments come from viewers’ ideas and the audience actively participates in the reporting process, asking probing questions and drawing conclusions of their own.

“Having that outsider riding along with us participating in the journalistic process and being out there adds a lot of credibility to the viewer,” said producer Dave Schechter, whose Road Trip is an offshoot of TEGNA’s groupwide VERIFY fact-checking initiative. “Having an audience member in the story gives it a greater sense of authenticity and honestly.”

It also reaps results, with the digital-first stories also running on-air. Segments have covered a breadth of topics ranging from whether there are legitimate reasons to own an AR-15 to whether Texas companies are underpaying property taxes to the  craft beer popularity explosion. An investigation into the proposed border wall led to a 25-minute documentary.

“It’s a way to earn public trust,” Schechter said. “[The viewer participant] functions as someone who is auditing what we do…and whether it was done fairly or not.”