Fact-checking claims about the Islamic State

This story originally appeared on the PunditFact website. Poynter.org is republishing with permission.


The violent terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State is eliciting fear from all corners of the world after its brutal advances through Iraq this summer, including the slaughter of religious minorities and soldiers and the video-recorded beheading of two American journalists.

How the United States should respond has been a ripe topic for pundits and politicians, with many dogging President Barack Obama for saying "we don’t have a strategy yet" to deal with the threat also known as ISIS.

Feeling lost in the chaotic developments?  Here’s a roundup of claims about the group that we have vetted so far.

Islamic State was too extreme for al-Qaida

In his final turn moderating NBC’s Meet the Press, David Gregory explored whether the group’s rapid growth was preventable.

"This is a terror state trying to construct a caliphate, cast off by al-Qaida because this group is considered too extreme," Gregory said Aug. Read more


Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

Veterens Day

The VA story the networks didn’t cover this week

This story originally appeared on the PunditFact website. Poynter.org is republishing with permission.

punditFact-logoBack in May, anyone who tuned in to almost any news show was guaranteed to hear about administrative delays that caused the deaths of 40 veterans at a VA hospital in Phoenix. Sometimes, the charge was softened a bit and news anchors talked about how the delays "might have" led to the deaths, but the general message was clear: Mismanagement, and even criminal deceit, had cut short the lives of people who had served their country.

On Tuesday, the Office of Inspector General at the Veterans Affairs Department issued its final report on the matter. While it confirmed a manipulation of scheduling records that it called unethical and in some cases criminal, it refuted the allegation that drove the headlines in May.

"We were unable to assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans," the investigators wrote. Read more


Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014


Fact-checking claims about race after Ferguson shooting

This story originally appeared on the PunditFact website. Poynter.org is republishing with permission.


The shooting of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer has led to a broader discussion of race in America. PunditFact has recently fact-checked several claims centering on race.

No. 1 cause of death for young black men

Fox pundit Juan Williams recently expounded upon a column he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in which he described "thuggish behavior" as creating a culture of violence in African-American communities.

"The violent behavior of young black men and the police response have become a window on racial fears," Williams wrote. On Fox News Sunday Williams said, "On the black side of this equation, I think there’s fear of intimidation, harassment being legitimized by the fact that there is a high rate of crime, especially among young black men.

"No. 1 cause of death, young black men 15 to 34 — murder," Williams said. Read more


Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014

NYT corrects: Bald eagles’ poop isn’t purple

A New York Times correction delves into the nitty gritty of bald eagle and osprey poop:

An earlier version of this article described bald eagles and ospreys incorrectly. They eat fish, and their poop is white; they do not eat berries and excrete purple feces. (Other birds, like American robins, Eurasian starlings and cedar waxwings, do.)

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Monday, Aug. 18, 2014

Let's Get Weird: A BuzzFeed Event sponsored by The CW

BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith: ‘We didn’t fully think through’ the removal of old posts

Several months ago, roughly half a dozen early BuzzFeed writers were told to go back through their pre-2012 work and decide what they wanted to save. Anything they didn’t want to keep or update should be removed from the site, they were told.

“Go through your stuff and save what you care about,” is how BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith summarizes the direction.

The result was that thousands of posts were removed from BuzzFeed, without any notice or disclosure. The removal of content was revealed by Gawker’s J.K. Trotter in two posts, the most recent of which outlined the previously unknown scale of the cull.

Smith was off in the woods on vacation when Trotter’s latest piece was published last week. This morning I spoke to him by phone, and he said BuzzFeed did not handle the purge of old content as well as it should have.

“I don’t suggest that this was masterpiece of a really well-thought-through process,” he said. Read more


Friday, Aug. 08, 2014


Bear attack foiled by Justin Bieber’s music: A story too good to check

Just after 12 pm on Tuesday, a story started picking up some serious online momentum.

In the span of about an hour, it appeared on the websites of The Week, Elite Daily, the Daily Mirror, the New York Post, Mediaite, an ABC affiliate, among others.

Here’s how the New York Post’s story began:

Even bears can’t stand Justin Bieber’s music.

A fisherman in Russia was being attacked by a brown bear and escaped death when his Justin Bieber ringtone went off and sent the beast fleeing into the forest.

Animals? Check. A strange and amazing turn of events? Check. Justin Bieber angle when he’s already in the news for a run-in with Orlando Bloom? Check.

Too good to check? Check.

But next thing you know, NPR’s “Morning Edition” covers it, and it ends up in a Seth Meyers monologue:

Here’s the issue: the first story of the bear attack was published in Russian language publication Pravda back on July 31 — and it says nothing about Justin Bieber. Read more


Friday, July 25, 2014


The Wall Street Journal fails ‘Monsters of Greek Mythology 101′

Someone at the Wall Street Journal can’t tell a Minotaur from a Cyclopes. As a result, the paper published a monstrous correction this week:

The Minotaur is a monster in Greek mythology that is part bull, part human. A travel article in Saturday’s Off Duty section mistakenly called it a one-eyed monster.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Economist updates article after man’s mother objects to his photo

The Economist published a blog post that tried to show negative stereotypes of tourists from different countries are often untrue and unfair.

And by stereotypes, they mean:

Germans? Humourless and demanding. Americans? Loud with garish shorts. Chinese? Rude. Canadians? Actually Canadians are all quite nice. And the Brits? Drunken, violent louts

The original version of the article featured a picture of a young British fellow “on a night out in Mallorca.” This upset the man’s mother, and she contacted the publication to ask that it not tar him with the aforementioned “drunken, violent” brush.

Well, The Economist was only happy to comply. It changed the photo and added this note to the bottom of the story:

Note: This blogpost was originally illustrated with a photograph of a young British man on a night out in Mallorca. His mother called to let us know that he meets none of the negative stereotypes mentioned in the article, so we have replaced the picture with a photo of two innocuous Canadians instead.

Read more

Friday, July 18, 2014

Scottish paper issues correction after it claims prom couple were ‘the envy of their classmates’

Here’s a wonderful backhanded correction from this week’s edition of the Cumbernauld News, of Scotland:

Vine is a broadcaster with the BBC, and the Twitter user he credits for finding the correction told me that it was published in this week’s edition of the paper. I emailed the paper to see if I can get more information about why Mrs. Masterson raised objections, and why the paper decided to issue the correction. Read more


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

Study: Political journalists opt for stenography over fact checking during presidential debates

During the 2012 U.S. presidential debates, political journalists on Twitter primarily repeated candidate claims without providing fact checks or other context, according to new research published in The International Journal of Press/Politics.

Authors Mark Coddington, Logan Molyneux and Regina G. Lawrence analyzed tweets from 430 political journalists during the debates to see how much they engaged in the checking of candidate claims. The resulting paper is “Fact Checking the Campaign: How Political Reporters Use Twitter to Set the Record Straight (or Not).”

They also examined whether the political journalist’s tweets fell more into the construct of traditional objectivity or what they call “scientific objectivity,” which eschews he said/she said in favor of empirical statements and analysis, i.e fact checking.

They found that 60 percent of the journalist tweets “reflected traditional practices of ‘professional’ objectivity: stenography—simply passing along a claim made by a politician—and ‘he said, she said’ repetition of a politician’s claims and his opponent’s counterclaim.”

Journalists largely repeated the claims and statement of candidates, rather that check or challenge them. Read more