Fact Checking

How PolitiFact gets ready for ‘the Super Bowl for fact-checkers’

The president’s State of the Union address is “the Super Bowl for fact-checkers,” former PolitiFact honcho Bill Adair tells a video crew at his new employer, Duke University.

PolitiFact — which is owned by the Tampa Bay Times, which in turn is owned by Poynter — gets a copy of the speech a few minutes before the U.S. House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms shouts “Mr. Speaker.” Via instant message, PolitiFact editors assign reporters to specific sections of the speech.

The editors then gather in PolitiFact’s “Star Chamber” and hand out Truth-o-Meter ratings, Adair says.

Related: YouTube, news sites will livestream the State of the Union | The White House wants to be your second screen for State of the Union address Read more

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Washington Post honors researcher who has ‘shared more Pulitzer Prizes than anyone in the newsroom’

Washington Post researcher Julie Tate is among the winners of this year’s Eugene Meyer Awards at the Washington Post, Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth tells staffers in an email. Tate “began her career at The Post occupying a seat in the very back of the newsroom — in “the library” — where the job was usually to locate newspaper clips and spell-check names for reporters writing stories,” Weymouth writes.

But Julie had her own ideas about research, and they went far beyond what most reporters knew to ask for. They included original reporting that made links between events and people, people and addresses, people and people, and eventually secret things the government was trying to hide. For those reporters who spotted her unique skills, she was a gold mine.

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The gloves come off as journalists increasingly fact-check other journalists. (Depositphotos)

‘Gloves come off’ as journalists debunk each other’s Obamacare horror stories

When Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik saw Deborah Cavallaro tell her story on television, something about it didn’t add up.

Cavallaro is a real-estate agent and investor in Westchester, Calif. She’s also become a minor media celebrity in the past few weeks, repeatedly sharing her story of how the Affordable Care Act will raise her medical costs. Since October 23, Cavallaro has been interviewed on the NBC Nightly News, CNBC, the public radio show “Marketplace,” two local Los Angeles TV newscasts, and in Hiltzik’s own newspaper.

As all the news reports have noted, Cavallaro’s insurer informed her that it’s canceling her policy and instead offering a new plan with a higher premium. “Her only option is to be forced into a policy she doesn’t want and can’t afford,” reported KCBS-TV. Read more

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New PolitiFact service will fact-check pundits

PolitiFact

PolitiFact will launch a service called PunditFact that will be “dedicated to checking claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers and the hosts and guests of talk shows.”

Poynter — which owns the Tampa Bay Times that operates PolitiFact — is a partner on the project. The Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund are funding it with seed money from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s group craigconnects.

Poynter will analyze “the reach and impact of PunditFact and will hold a conference to discuss the results,” the announcement says. Read more

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Magnifying Glass - Facts

Researchers find politicians may fear fact-checkers

In the months before the 2012 election, state legislators in nine states received letters from two political scientists.

“We are writing to let you know about an important research project,” the letters began.

It wasn’t just a letter letting them know about the project — the letters were a core piece of the research, as were the politicians themselves.

Some of the letters informed legislators that PolitiFact had set up shop in their state, and that the researchers were conducting work related to “how elected officials in your state are responding to the presence of this fact-checking organization during this campaign season.” It also told them that, “Politicians who lie put their reputations and careers at risk, but only when those lies are exposed.” Read more

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Study about PolitiFact — OK to call it a study?

PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair was careful to call a study that claimed his shop “rates Republicans as less trustworthy than Democrats” a “press release” when I asked him for comment about it last week.

“The authors of this press release seem to have counted up a small number of our Truth-O-Meter ratings over a few months, and then drew their own conclusions,” Adair wrote. (Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times, which owns PolitiFact.) I asked the spokesperson for George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs for a copy of the full study, about which I had indeed received a press release. In return, CMPA spokesperson Kathryn Davis sent me the following tables: Read more

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Michele Bachmann

Fact-checkers, copy editors on why they’ll be affected by Michele Bachmann’s retirement

U.S. Rep Michele Bachmann announced early Wednesday that she would not seek her seat next year, an announcement that will land hard on two constituencies: Fact-checkers and copy editors.

“She was great to cover because she was consistently and unapologetically wrong,” Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler told Poynter in an email. “But others will fill the breach, I am sure!” In a post bidding her adieu, Kessler wrote that Bachmann’s absence “will leave the Capitol a much less interesting place to fact check.” Read more

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Study: PolitiFact finds Republicans ‘less trustworthy than Democrats’

Center for Media and Public Affairs

George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs studied 100 PolitiFact fact-checks during President Obama’s second term. The organization “rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims,” a press release says.

PolitiFact rated 32% of Republican claims as “false” or “pants on fire,” compared to 11% of Democratic claims – a 3 to 1 margin. Conversely, Politifact rated 22% of Democratic claims as “entirely true” compared to 11% of Republican claims – a 2 to 1 margin.

A majority of Democratic statements (54%) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18% of Republican statements. Conversely, a majority of Republican statements (52%) were rated as mostly or entirely false, compared to only 24% of Democratic statements.

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Is Truth-O-Meter the real issue in Maddow’s latest blast at PolitiFact?

The Tampa Bay Times’ fact-checking site PolitiFact has drawn another heated rebuke from MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, who accuses it of “ruining fact checking” and being “truly terrible.”

But at the risk of looking like a homer — the Times signs my checks as its media critic — I think Maddow’s gripe with PolitiFact boils down to the same thing that’s rankled other critics: the site’s Truth-O-Meter rulings. (Additional disclaimer: Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times.)

On Tuesday, Maddow took issue with PolitiFact ruling as “Half True” a statement from tennis legend Martina Navratilova that “in 29 states in this country you can still get fired for not just being gay but if your employer thinks you are gay.” That number is the amount of states with no statewide law banning employment discrimination for sexual orientation. Read more

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New NYT video series will fact-check the past

The New York Times Co. | Retro Report | The New York Times

The New York Times Co. Monday announced a video collaboration with Retro Report, which “Fact-Checks Yesterday’s News,” in the words of a Times release. The videos will run on the Times’ Booming blog.

Future reports will take on crack babies — “we learn that warnings in the 1980s about these children being damaged for life were not supported by the research of the time or by more recent studies,” Michael Winerip writes — and the Tawana Brawley story.

Retro Report says it combines “documentary techniques with shoe-leather reporting” because “the first draft of history can be wrong.” Read more

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