PolitiFact

Organization: PolitiFact
Applicant: Angie Holan
Assessor: Steve Fox
Conclusion and recommendations
on 15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

Steve Fox wrote:

Missing Conclusion and recommendations

on 15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

Steve Fox recommended Accept


Section 1: Organization

Criterion 1a
Proof of registration
Evidence required: Please provide evidence that the signatory is a legally-registered organization set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking or the distinct fact-checking project of a recognized media house or research institution.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

The link takes you to a clearly labeled site – you know where you are and the “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” tag underneath the main header gives the site a tremendous amount of credibility right off the bat. At the bottom of the page, you see mention of PolitiFact’s offices in Washington, D.C. as well as in St. Petersburg, Fla. – with addresses and phone numbers listed.

On the “About” page there is a link to “Who Pays For PolitiFact,” which is a wealth of information about how and where PolitiFact gets its funding. It’s easy to read and straightforward in explaining the background and purpose of the site. The background of PolitiFact and The Tampa Bay Times is unique and could be considered complicated yet the explanation is coherent and informative.


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 1b
Archive
Evidence required: Insert a link to the archive of fact checks published in the previous three months. If you do not collect all fact checks in one place, please explain how the fact-checking is conducted by your organization.

PolitiFact
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

The site regularly posts updates fact-checks, which you can see both on its homepage and on its “Truth-O-Meter” page which is transparent with its “Our latest fact-checks” headline. Each post/update also includes a date along with a headline and blurb of the fact being checked. 


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 2: Nonpartisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2a
Body of work sample
Evidence required: Please share links to ten fact checks that better represent the scope and consistency of your fact-checking. Provide a short explanation of how your organization strives to maintain coherent standards across fact checks.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

On its “About Us” page, PolitiFact includes a link to “Our Process” which outlines how the writers select and then evaluate a fact under consideration. The primary item on that page is a short video (2:34) which explains the process the organization uses when fact-checking.

Unfortunately, the video editors decide on a cute/fun approach to telling the story of their mission – which in the end takes away from the serious work they do. Important points like stating that they list the sources they use for their fact checking is in danger of being lost when right after that point is made we see a journalist dressed up as Sasquatch, followed quickly by a news clip from Star Wars. They do outline their evaluation guidelines in the video – important criteria for readers to be aware of but it almost gets lost with the other distractions. While the video is accompanied by a text piece, the lighthearted nature of the video takes away from the mission of the Web site. It’s even more critical in today’s environment for serious news organizations to be perceived as serious and I would recommend PolitiFact revise their explainer video.

The choices of Fact Checks themselves seem to be well-divided between assertions by local, state and national politicians as well as assertions made by various media outlets.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 2b
Nonpartisanship policy
Evidence required: Please share evidence of your policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations. Please also indicate the policy your organization has as a whole regarding advocacy and supporting political candidates.

PolitiFact
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

From our company policy (internal communication):

"To do our jobs, our credibility is paramount. In exchange for the privilege of getting a front row seat at important events and the responsibility of reporting the news to our readers, we give up some things. Among them are the public expression of political views and public involvement in the political process.

News staffers don’t post candidate yard signs, we don’t participate in political marches, we don’t make political contributions or work on campaigns, and very importantly these days, we don’t lay out our personal political views on social media."

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

PolitiFact has a policy regarding advocacy and political positions for its organization and staff but unfortunately it’s a policy that has been only circulated within the company that states the following: "To do our jobs, our credibility is paramount. In exchange for the privilege of getting a front row seat at important events and the responsibility of reporting the news to our readers, we give up some things. Among them are the public expression of political views and public involvement in the political process.

“News staffers don’t post candidate yard signs, we don’t participate in political marches, we don’t make political contributions or work on campaigns, and very importantly these days, we don’t lay out our personal political views on social media."

This is a solid policy but to be transparent, PolitiFact should publish the policy on its site.


done 2b marked as Partially compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 3: Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3a
Sources Policy
Please share a brief and public explanation (500 words max) of how sources are provided in enough detail that readers could replicate the fact check. If you have a public policy on how you find and use sources for your fact-checking, it should be shared here.

PolitiFact
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/nov/01/principles-politifact-punditfact-and-truth-o-meter/

Transparency and on-the-record sources

PolitiFact and PunditFact rely on on-the-record interviews and publish a list of sources with every Truth-O-Meter item. When possible, the list includes links to sources that are freely available, although some sources rely on paid subscriptions. The goal is to help readers judge for themselves whether they agree with the ruling.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

Each Fact-Check contains a section on the right column of the page that lists the sources used in the fact-checking process. The transparency on this is limited though since they include references to such items as e-mails and telephone conversations – but the readers are unaware of the content of such items. The stated goal of providing the sources is stated on the “About Us” page as allowing readers to “judge for themselves whether they agree with the ruling.” This is a little different than being able to replicate the fact check.

Can PolitiFact provide transcripts of these conversations? PolitiFact would likely need the cooperation/permission of sources involved to do that but such transparency would go a long way to allowing readers to replicate the fact checks.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 4: Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4a
Funding Sources
Evidence required: Please link to the section where you publicly list your sources of funding (including, if they exist, any rules around which types of funding you do or don't accept), or a statement on ownership if you are the branch of an established media organization or research institution.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

PolitiFact does a solid job of describing its somewhat complicated funding situation under the “Who Pays For PolitiFact” section of the “About Us” section. Yet there is no mention of profit and loss, nor how much of the annual budget is derived from grants and subscribers. With such a complicated funding system in place some readers might see the lack of real specifis as an effort to block transparency on PolitiFact’s fiscal status. It’s not made clear whether PolitiFact is for-profit or non-profit – some transparency outlining specifics with its financial status would go a long way to developing credibility with PolitiFact’s audience.


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 4b
Staff
Evidence required: Please link to the section detailing all authors and key actors behind your fact-checking project with their biographies. You can also list the name and bios of the members of the editorial board, pool of experts, advisory board, etc. if your organization has those.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

Politifact also has a staff page on the “About Us” page – with links to bios that include a brief description of their career history as well as links to recent work on the site. Staff pages are often interesting because they show immediately whether the organization is diverse. And, while there is a good gender split with this staff, people of color are not well represented.


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 4c
Contact
Evidence required: Please link to the section where readers can get in touch with the organization.

PolitiFact
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/ How to contact us is on right rail of every page. 

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

The “How To Contact Us” is truly engaging as well as being hard to miss. The prominent display on each page shows that PolitiFact is truly interested in interacting with its audience and they make a point of letting the audience know that they will follow up on questions they raise.


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 5: Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5a
Detailed Methodology
Evidence required: Please link to a section or article detailing the steps you follow for your fact-checking work.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

PolitiFact does a strong job of explaining its process in the “Our Process” section of the “About Us” page. The editors go through their methodology in a brief video (which I analyzed earlier) as well as via text. They outline their decision-making process on the facts they decide to check – admitting they can’t check everything but that focus on the “most newsworthy and significant” claims. They use several guidelines to help decide which facts to check including: “Is the statement likely to be passed on and repeated by others?” This seems to be an important standard in today’s social media atmosphere and Politifact should pay particular attention to this standard moving forward.

The editors also describe the definitions of the Truth-O-Meter rulings. The “Pants On Fire” designation has gained some notoriety thanks to media coverage but the editors do a solid job of explaining how this is part of a spectrum of designations. The editors also outline the principles behind arriving at the designations, including the all-important “context matters”: “We examine the claim in the full context, the comments made before and after it, the question that prompted it, and the point the person was trying to make.” Again, this is a smart guideline and one that seems all the more important in today’s environment.

Finally, the editors let the readers know that a panel of at least three editors determine the Truth-O-Meter rating after the article is edited. This needs a bit more information and clarity. Does the vote have to be unanimous? If there is no agreement on the ruling, do the writers do more reporting? How often does the panel meet?


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 5b
Claim submissions
Evidence required: Please link to the page or process through which readers can submit claims to fact-check. If you do not allow this, please briefly explain why.

PolitiFact
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

Under "About Us" menu, "Suggest a fact-check" link opens an email to us. 

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

The site also proves for ratings on consistency on an issue -- “The Flip-O-Meter” -- and ratings on promises kept and broken – the “Promise Meters.” The editors also provide a prominent “How To Contact Us” section which allows for readers to send in their own suggestions for items to be fact-checked.


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 6: Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6a
Corrections policy
Evidence required: Please link to the page with your policy to address corrections. If it is not public, please share your organization's handbook.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

The editors outline their “Corrections and Review” policy in the “Our Process” section. To their credit, they say they will reconvene the three-editor panel if the error is significant. If there is a new ruling, we will rewrite the item and put the correction at the top indicating how it's been changed. That’s an important and significant point that makes their PolitiFact’s corrections policy an exceptional one.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 6b
Examples of corrections
Evidence required: Please provide two examples of a correction made, or correction requests handled, in the past year.

PolitiFact
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

All corrections cataloged via this link: http://www.politifact.com/subjects/corrections-and-updates/

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (3 years ago)

Missing


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.