PolitiFact

Organization: PolitiFact
Applicant: Angie Holan
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Conclusion and recommendations
on 27-May-2019 (3 months ago)

Michael Wagner wrote:

PolitiFact is an excellent, transparent, industry-leading fact-checking site owned by Poynter. It complies with each of the IFCN criteria in clear, easy-to-find ways. I recommend that PolitiFact's appplication be accepted. I also recommend that PolitiFact consider informing readers about the number and nature of the corrections requests they receive. I also recommend that PolitiFact considers either making the distinctions between "half true" and "mostly false" on the Truth-o-Meter more distinct or further specifying how decisions are made that place checks on claims in one category over the other. Perhaps a link to an "anatomy of a fact check" page that explains why claim A was half true and claim B was mostly false, for example.

on 27-May-2019 (3 months ago)

Michael Wagner 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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact is a legalyl registered organization that has a primary purpose of conducting fact-checkings. PolitiFact has been operating continuously since 2007. It is important to note that PolitiFact is owned by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. IFCN is operated by Poynter.


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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
29-Apr-2019 (4 months ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact conducts regular fact-checks on matters of public concern on a reguarly basis. The fact-checks evaluate distinct claims based on their accuracy. The site publishes several fact-checks per day, usually ranging between 3 and 7 published fact-checks. PolitiFact also publishes stories assessing whether political elites have flip-flopped their position on various political issues. PolitiFact also conducts assessments of how well the President of the United States is delivering on campaign promises.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact conducts fact-checks on a wide variety of political elites from all sides of the political spectrum. My analyses over three randomly sampled months of fact-checks does not find systematic bias in the subjects, speakers, and contexts that get checked. Each fact-check is conducted using the same set of priniciples that are clearly articulated on their website. Moreover, each fact-check is conducted using the same ratings scale (the Truth-O-Meter).


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact does not accept donations from political parties and advocacy organizations. Their website clearly articulates this policy. 

As their site notes, "PolitiFact journalists avoid the public expression of political opinion and public involvement in the political process.

We don’t make political contributions or work on campaigns. We don’t sign online petitions, post yard signs, or participate in political marches.

We avoid expressing political views on social media. We do share news stories and other journalism, but we take care not to be seen as endorsing or opposing a political figure or position. We avoid snarky commentary.

We may participate in the political process as voters, because we also have responsibilities as individual citizens of the United States. But we keep our votes to ourselves as a matter of principle. Our goal is to be open-minded in all of our work." 

The phrase "we don't" is not quite the same thing as "we do not allow," but the policy does appear to meet the spirit of the criterion and the compliance requirements for it.


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact is an industry leader on this criterion. Fact-checks provide links to all of the sources PolitiFact journalists use that are publically available (though some have pay walls). They conduct on-the-record interviews. Each story is accompanied by a history of the story (who wrote it, who was interviewed, what documents and the like where used and so forth) which provides as additional layer of transparency for the reader to use when assessing the quality of PolitiFact's work.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact lists their funders who provide more than 5% of their total revenue, but they do not list how much they get from those funders. PolitiFact also lists the total amount of their individual donations, revealing the names of those who give $1,000 or more. PolitiFact also publishes a link to a modestly redacted version of their 990 disclosure form to allow readers to understand PolitiFact's spending and verify some financial information about PolitiFact.


done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

PolitiFact
29-Apr-2019 (4 months ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

All key actors and writers/reporters/editors/correspondents are listed with bio information and contact information. Some, especially at PolitiFact local affiliates are not terribly robust biographies (X is a reporter for PolitiFact...).


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

Biographies of the director, editors, correspondents, and writers are easy to find on the PolitiFact website. There is also a "how to contact" option, with an email address and a mailing address, that is easy to find. The listing of their staff infludes email addresses and Twitter handles. The how to contact page does not include a relevant Twitter handle or Facebook page to contact, but PolitiFact, again, offers several easy ways for people to get in touch with complaints, suggestions, comments, or reactions. 


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

The principles related to how claims are chosen to fact-check, the reporting process and the how the ratings scale of the Truth-O-Meter is operationalied are clearly explained in an acessible place. The different categories of the Truth-O-Meter are generally clear. However, the differences between "half true" and "mostly false" (half true statements are "partially accurate" while a "mostly false" statement "contains  an element of truth" do not have clear distinctions. My hypothesis would be that outside fact-checkers seeking to replicate the work of PolitiFact would come to similar conclusions as PolitiFact, with the caveat that the categories with the lowest correlation to PolitiFact's own work would be half true and mostly false.


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

It is easy for readers to find opportunities to send claims for PolitiFact to fact-check. The website is very clear that every request cannot be honored and that PolitiFact uses a clear set of criteria when deciding what to check (the site lists those criteria plainly for readers).


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact has a detailed corrections policy. For major errors of fact, they make corrections and tag the story - at the top - as corrected. For minor factual errors (that do not change the rating), the correction tag is made at the bottom of the page. Typos and the like are corrected without public notice or fanfare. It is easy for the audience to find the corrections policy and seek corrections. PolitiFact does not tell readers how often they are contacted with corrections requests or what the content and outcomes of those requests were.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

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

PolitiFact
29-Apr-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Michael Wagner Assessor
27-May-2019 (3 months ago) Updated: 3 months ago

PolitiFact meets this criterion. It is easy for readers to see which stories contained corrections and/or updates with substantively meaningful information.


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.