Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MinnPost: "Politifact responds to U researcher's anti-GOP bias claim"

David Brauer of MinnPost.com enterprisingly asked PoltiFact creator/editor Bill Adair for his take on the recent study by Eric Ostermeier suggesting a partisan selection bias.

Adair played it a bit like a politician.  Read the whole thing here, but here's an excerpt:
"Eric Ostermeier's study is particularly timely because we've heard a lot of charges this week that we are biased — from liberals. They are unhappy with our False rulings on President Obama from his interview with Bill O'Reilly. So we're accustomed to hearing strong reactions from people on both ends of the political spectrum."
I liked Brauer's response to that portion of Adair's statement:
I've never been a fan of the "both sides hate us so we must be doing something right" argument; that can enable false balance.
Brauer's right.

After the diversionary pooh-pooh, Adair goes on to justify PoltiFact's legitimacy by describing the story selection process.  It's editorial judgment and giving the readers what they want ("We check claims that we believe readers are curious about").  In other words, it's pretty much a recipe for selection bias.

Adair then says that PolitiFact's practice of  listing its sources permits readers to decide things for themselves.  That's only partly true.  PolitiFact hardly ever shares the context of its expert source interviews.  And if the readers are supposed to decide for themselves then what is the point of the "Truth-O-Meter"?

Let's face it:  The majority don't pay much attention to PolitiFact beyond the flashy graphics.  If PolitiFact adds 28 and 19 to reach the sum of 49 probably hardly anybody notices.  Nor do the majority pay attention to selection bias in PolitiFact's application of standards.

But that's why JD and I started PolitiFact Bias.  We're here to help alert people to the fact that PolitiFact is second-rate in its fact checking, inconsistent in its application of standards, obviously non-objective and ideologically slanted left.

Adair's statement does not address Ostermeier's hypothesis except to convey the message that PolitiFact doesn't care.  If their editorial judgment isn't good enough then go back to reading Media Matters.

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