On 10th Anniversary of PolitiFact, Facts Have Never Been in Such Short Supply

Over at Poynter, Alexios Mantzarlis celebrates the tenth anniversary of PolitFact:

It’s the summer of 2007….In Washington, D.C., St Petersburg Times bureau chief Bill Adair is brainstorming new ways to cover the upcoming presidential race, motivated in part by a sense of guilt. “I had covered political campaigns,” he would later say, “and felt that I had been a passive co-conspirator in sort of passing along inaccurate information.”

….What Adair thought would differentiate the project, renamed “PolitiFact” by Executive Editor Neil Brown, was a rating system with a silly name (the “Truth-O-Meter”) and a highly structured content management system that would allow for easy sorting of all the published fact checks.

….Over the next decade, PolitiFact would win the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, partner with more than a dozen newspapers to launch state-level affiliates and build a brand with a larger online following than its parent organization. Along the way, PolitiFact helped shape political fact-checking across the world.

I hate to pick on PolitiFact. I have issues with all the “fact checking” sites, but for the most part I think they do good work. At the same time, the rise of fact checking seems to have coincided not with an overall rise in honesty among politicians, but with the rise of a complete disdain for facts among Republicans. This peaked in 2016 with the victory of Donald Trump, a man who, according to PolitiFact, barely ever opens his mouth to say something true.

Is this just a coincidence? Or is there some kind of relationship here? I don’t know. But it’s hard not to wonder.


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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