Author Archive: Bryan W. White

PolitiFact’s misleading ‘Truth-O-Meter’ explainer

We saw something funny on PolitiFact’s Facebook page the other day. It was a video purporting to answer questions about PolitiFact’s trademarked “Truth-O-Meter” system for rating the relative truth of political statements. We would count the explanatory video as an unmitigated disaster. Much of PolitiFact’s video deserves critical commentary. We invite readers to watch the embedded video via YouTube before…
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Email outreach to PolitiFact’s Josie Hollingsworth, Sept. 30, 2021

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On Sept. 30, 2021 Zebra Fact Check sent an email inquiry to PolitiFact’s editor of audience engagement, Josie Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth claimed in an explainer video that “Truth-O-Meter” jury members have multiple years working with PolitiFact’s rating system. We found that hard to reconcile with PolitiFact’s past practice of having state franchises provide their own “Truth-O-Meter” juries, with assistance as needed…
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Correction to correction request description

Our description of our correction request published to the website on Sept. 14, 2021 contained errors based on false conclusions we drew about CDC data. Zebra Fact Check sought a correction from Repustar/FactSparrow based on our belief it had failed to distinguish between CDC statistics on new hospital admissions and hospitalizations. In fact, Zebra Fact Check erred its interpretation of…
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Correction request sent to Repustar/FactSparrow (Updated/Corrected)

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Fact checker Repustar, represented on Twitter as “FactSparrow,” published a fact brief that (we believed) confused hospital admissions for coronavirus with coronavirus hospitalizations, though the CDC reports very different statistics for each. After seeing no movement on the issue based on Twitter outreach, Zebra Fact Check emailed Repustar to encourage a correction to the misinformation (we believed we detected). Update…
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Do U.S. fossil fuel power plants kill millions of birds annually?

The go-to paper on avian mortality from power plant operation has little to back its conclusions about plants using fossil fuels, and fact checkers struggle to describe it correctly. A funny thing happened when media fact checker PolitiFact looked into the question of birds killed by fossil fuel-burning power plants. PolitiFact either neglected to check the facts or neglected to…
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Google search finds IFCN complaints at poynter.org

International Fact-Checking Network revised logo

On or about June 21, 2021, a Google search discovered a complaint we had submitted to the International Fact-Checking Network about PolitiFact. We’ve lobbied the IFCN for years to encourage it to adopt a more open policy with its system of complaints. We’d prefer for the public to have free access to all the complaints the IFCN receives about its…
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Quora, Felix Ling and Media Bias/Fact Check

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Somebody at the question-and-answer website Quora asked whether the website “Media Bias/Fact Check” counts as trustworthy. A number of the answers to that question conveyed our view of that site, that the subjectivity of its methodology basically makes it a category error to gauge its trustworthiness. Quoran Felix Ling, on the other hand, considered it a key point that nobody…
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Fake accountability and the International Fact-Checking Network

International Fact-Checking Network revised logo

The International Fact-Checking Network has yet to figure out how to balance its role as a fact-checking advocate with its role in fact-checker accountability. The IFCN peddles the image that it verifies compliance with its Code of Principles. In practice, its accountability measures count as incredibly weak. The IFCN’s 2021 treatment of its Poynter Institute stable mate PolitiFact exemplifies the…
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