Commentary

Social Security, deficits and the fact checkers

On April 10 we published a fact check of a House Democrat presentation of Social Security, claiming that Social Security has never added so much as a dime to the deficit.  We found the claim false based on the Social Security Administration’s reports of revenue falling short of expenses. We’ve since surveyed the way various mainstream fact checkers treated similar…
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The Atlantic: “It’s not the rating that matters.”

The Atlantic recently published a column about fact checking by Alesh Houdek.  Houdek asks a question and by the end he gives us an answer.  The answer reveals the key problem with modern fact checking, though Houdek apparently doesn’t completely see it. The question (from the story’s deck):   Seen from the right angle with the right squint, the claim…
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George Washington and the Second Amendment: Unsettling the question with expert opinions

While fact checking claims PolitiFact Texas made in its fact check of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) I ran into the problem of experts giving contradictory opinions. Gohmert answered a journalist’s question about the justification for citizens having arms similar to those used by law enforcement.  Gohmert said his reason was the same as the one that George Washington had for…
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John McManus’ ‘SMELL test’

Veteran journalism critic John McManus came forth with a good article on evaluating online information sources, published online by PBS. “Don’t Be Fooled: Use the SMELL Test To Separate Fact from Fiction Online” encourages readers to test claims with a process that follows the SMELL acronym:   Introducing the SMELL test S stands for Source. Who is providing the information?…
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Brooks Jackson and firefighting

Brooks Jackson, the founder of Annenberg Fact Check, published a review in December of his past nine years at FactCheck.org.  Titled “Firefighters, Fact-Checking and American Journalism,” the review focuses largely on the role of the fact checker. Jackson deserves credit for steering what is and has been the best fact-checking organization.  But his defense of mainstream fact checking does much…
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Experts and agendas

Journalists who fact check tend to rely on experts. It makes sense.  Journalists possess limited pools of knowledge, and that knowledge is mostly of a general character.  Journalists know something about quite a few things rather than having a great deal of knowledge about one specific thing. Therein lies the dilemma for the fact checking journalist.  Which expert is right…
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The reason behind the journalistic fact check movement

I’ve blogged in the past that the recent trend for journalists to engage in political fact checking amounts to a type of power play.  A guest column by Mike Deupree in Iowa’s The Register yesterday helped inspire me to sharpen the point. “At some point,” writes Deupree, “some journalists — probably frustrated because readers weren’t making the decisions the journalists…
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Introducing Zebra Fact Check

Journalists trend ideologically left. That’s just a fact.   In findings likely to fuel the raging debate over the issue of media bias, a new book concludes that the nation’s journalists have moved a bit to the right since the 1990s, but are still considerably more liberal than the general public. This political snapshot of the media comes from the…
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