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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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