Minnesota Public Radio shows how to put the public into fact checking

DFLWiener_720“Ben Wiener will be another vote against Medicare.” Or so claimed a 2012 campaign flier targeting the Republican candidate in a close Minnesota legislative race.

The claim was false, according to Minnesota Public Radio’s PoliGraph. As the political fact checker noted, the state House would have no real say over federal efforts to fix a funding gap in the Medicare Part D program — despite what the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party suggested in its mailing to voters in Wiener’s district, halfway between Minneapolis and Duluth.

For Catharine Richert, the reporter who has led PoliGraph for the past four years, that was just another day of campaign truth-squadding. But Richert’s source on that particular story was worth noting: an alert but unnamed public radio listener in Pine City, about an hour north of Minneapolis, who had forwarded the message to the station. Read more


Academic research: ‘Huge growth’ in fact checking by the media

As some wring their hands about a decline in newsroom resources and quality, there’s a “huge growth” in fact checking in the coverage of politics, according to a new academic study.

Several thousand papers were delivered at the Midwest Political Science Association conference, including, “Where and Why Do Journalists Fact-Check.” The paper contends that reporters now fact-check politicians more than ever. One co-author describes it as an “explosion” that coincides with an obvious growth in the coverage of national politics.

“Every single elite organization engages in visible fact checking of politics,” Lucas Graves of the University of Wisconsin told a small audience on Thursday as he sketched the study’s preliminary findings.

“There are scores of dedicated fact-checking outlets that didn’t exist even five years ago.”

He cited the first dedicated fact-checking site as Spinsanity, launched in 2001 by one of his co-authors, Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College. Read more

1 Comment

The extreme ratings of fact-checkers around the world

This article was republished with permission by the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Claire Ballentine is a student researcher at the Lab.

A 2015 census of fact-checkers reveals the odd names they use for the most ridiculous falsehoods.

FactCheckEU calls them “Insane Whoppers.” The Voice of San Diego uses “Huckster Propaganda.” Honolulu Civil Beat refers to them as “Screaming Lies.”

From Rome to Hawaii and everywhere in between, the growth of political fact-checking has spawned new rating systems that use catchy names for the most ridiculous falsehoods.

While conducting our census of fact-checking sites around the world, we encountered some amusing ratings. Here is a sampling:

  • Canada’s Baloney Meter measures the accuracy of politicians’ statements based of how much “baloney” they contain. This ranges from “No Baloney” (the statement is completely accurate) to “Full of Baloney” (completely inaccurate).
Read more

Yes, Virginia, it is OK for a writer to play with the form

As a boy, my favorite story genre was the cowboy movie.  As I got a little older, I left Hopalong Cassidy behind in favor of parodies of cowboy movies, the kind of thing Mad magazine produced or Mel Brooks perfected in Blazing Saddles.

No doubt, good writers learn how to fulfill the requirements of a particular writing form, whether it’s the inverted pyramid or the three-act play. One sign of mastery is the ability to parody. In order to ridicule something well, you need to discover its actual elements. That’s a lesson I learned from poet Donald Hall and his 1973 textbook Writing Well.

He includes an example of journalist Oliver Jensen making fun of the way President Eisenhower talked.  First Jensen must learn the quirks of Ike’s awkward rhetoric. Read more

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 1.38.33 PM

3 lessons from the G20 Summit ‘Factcheckathon’

Earlier this week, nine fact-checking websites joined forces to fact-check the statements made by world leaders during the G20 summit in Australia. Glenn Kessler wrote about the results in The Washington Post. I coordinated this first factcheckathon with Cristina Tardàguila from O Globo and took home three important lessons.

  1. Global fact-checking experiments can yield useful results for comparative politics
    Our fact-checking network caught three of the eight world leaders we were monitoring saying essentially the same thing: Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, Barack Obama of the USA and Matteo Renzi of Italy all said something along the lines of “large amounts of jobs were created under my government” – and then proceeded to inflate their records. What was interesting was not so much that politicians chose to dabble with figures, but that they did so in such a similar manner.
Read more

Creating new forms of journalism that put readers in charge

It’s been 20 years since the Internet began to disrupt journalism. It has turned our business upside down, but it’s also given us a new canvas to invent different ways of presenting information. It’s time to start reimagining the news story.

Last week, four of us gathered in a windowless conference room in New York to explore what we can do to nudge things along.

The participants were the creators of three projects that rely on new forms:

  • Laura and Chris Amico, the founders of Homicide Watch, the highly acclaimed reporting venture that tracks homicide victims and suspects in Washington, Chicago and Trenton, N.J.

Read more

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


New PolitiFact service will fact-check pundits


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

1 Comment
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


PolitiFact Ohio gives Rachel Maddow a ‘Pants on Fire!’

PolitiFact Ohio

Rachel Maddow’s claim that Ohio’s budget calls for a “mandatory vaginal probe at the insistence of the state” is not true, PolitiFact’s Ohio outfit says.

“Maddow was referring to a new requirement that women seeking abortions first receive ultrasounds to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present,” PolitiFact and Plain Dealer reporter Henry J. Gomez writes. Gomez got his hands on the budget, which says “only that an examination shall be performed externally.”

“That puts Maddow’s ‘vaginal probe’ claim about as far as can be from the truth, into the realm of the ridiculous,” Gomez writes. Read more

1 Comment
Page 1 of 512345