Bill Adair: Fact-checking ‘is a good investment’

CJR

Bill Adair says in an interview with Brendan Nyhan for Columbia Journalism Review that while he is leaving newspapers for academia, the lessons he learned from founding PolitiFact are worth sharing with all of journalism. Fact-checking, he said, is needed more than ever.

“The challenge is that news organizations are so strapped that they are looking for things to cut, not things to add such as factchecking,” he said. “I’m hopeful they’ll realize that factchecking is a good investment — and one that readers love.”

Verifying statements validates the role of journalists as guardians against misinformation, Adair said, a job that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

I agree … about changing the mindset away from the he said-she said. I think that’s one unfortunate reaction to our polarized discourse. Many journalists are afraid to say something is false for fear they will be called biased.

We sometimes get criticized by people who say that our work is opinion and belongs on the op-ed page. But I disagree. I call it “reported conclusion” journalism. We are doing thorough reporting and then drawing a conclusion on whether something is true, false or somewhere between.

Adair also assures Nyhan that just because he’s leaving for Duke, that doesn’t mean PolitiFact is ending.

I think PolitiFact’s next step is to keep expanding. We want to find partners in the remaining states and see if we can expand internationally. We are partnering with a respected Australian journalist to launch PolitiFact Australia later this spring. If that goes well, we’ll consider other countries.

I have written for PolitiFact Florida; Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times and PolitiFact.

Previously: PolitiFact tells group to stop using its ‘Truth-o-Meter’ on billboards | 5 lessons from developing Settle It!, PolitiFact’s new fact-checking mobile app | GOP strategists review PolitiFact findings, say they ‘back up our argument about media bias’

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