Sunday, March 13, 2011

Introducing PFB's Anecdote-O-Meter

Just kidding with the title.  The o-meter stuff is too trite to use as more than a one-off joke.

But the subject is anecdotes and their role in helping to show bias in a body of work.

Most of us think we can perceive bias in an individual piece of journalism--an anecdotal evidence.  And we may often be right, but the appearance of bias in reporting or fact checking may simply occur at the result of writer error.

So how does one tell the difference between mere errors and ideological bias?

One method, bolstered by the methods of science, involves counting the number of errors and tracking any association with political parties or ideas.  Mere errors ought to occur roughly equally in stories regarding Republicans compared to those involving Democrats.  Where the errors harm one party more than the other beyond the line of statistical significance, evidence of a political bias has come to light.  The degree of deviation from best practices also may figure in a scientific study of journalistic errors.

In March of 2008 at my blog Sublime Bloviations, I started tagging relevant posts with "grading PolitiFact."  On occasion I have criticized PolitiFact for harsh grading of Democrats.  The vast majority of the posts, in accordance with my selection bias, is made up of criticisms of faulty grades given to Republicans or conservatives, or ridiculously gentle treatment of Democrats or progressives.

I work under no illusion that the list represents definitive evidence of a systemic bias at PolitiFact.  But the number of times PolitiFact's grades go easy on Democrats and tough on Republicans does count as an important and legitimate evidence supporting (not definitively) the charge of bias.

If the ideological bias at PolitiFact is not significant, then it should be possible to compile a list of comparable size and quality containing criticisms of PolitiFact where PolitiFact favors Republicans and deals harshly with Democrats.

I don't foresee that occurring.

The list from Sublime Bloviations, in chronological order (and do pardon the more polemical bent in the earlier entries.  I was shocked by the amateurish fact checks I was reading):

2008

Sniping McCain's earmark history? Or just snipe hunting? (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: NATO not cooperating on Afghanistan because of Iraq?
Grading PolitiFact: Clinton and the popular vote
Grading PolitiFact: Fidel Castro's endorsement?
Grading PolitiFact: McCain and offshore drilling
Grading PolitiFact: "Artful" Obama consistent, McCain "False"
Grading PolitiFact: The molehill appears mountainous under the microscope
Grading PolitiFact: Obama right about tire inflation and tune-ups? (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Obama right about tire inflation and tune-ups? Part 2
Grading PolitiFact: PolitiFact applies lipstick to a pig (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: If you're fine with equivocation then McCain requested earmarks
Grading PolitiFact: Iranian women at risk for want of proper hijab?
Grading PolitiFact: Obama health plan fines small businesses?
Grading PolitiFact: Did Obama warn about the subprime mortgage crisis?
Grading PolitiFact: McCain opposed helping women earn equal pay for equal work

2009

Grading PolitiFact: Illegitimate burn of Coburn? (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Obama invokes Teddy Roosevelt on health care reform (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Christina Romer and "almost all of them"
Grading PolitiFact: Model T gas mileage
Grading PolitiFact: Jesmer apparently not as artful as Obama?
Grading PolitiFact: Does Warren Buffett support Obama?
Grading PolitiFact: Limbaugh and the Hyperbole Police
Grading PolitiFact: Bilirakis & the DHS "Rightwing Extremism" report
Grading PolitiFact: Obama and the Venezuelan threat (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: If only Newt Gingrich had been "artful" like Obama
Grading PolitiFact: President Obama and violence in Iraq
Grading PolitiFact: Bachmann on swine flu: fact check or editorial sneer?
Grading PolitiFact: Cass Sunstein, free speech and overshadowing headlines
Grading PolitiFact: Chain e-mail used to smear Sen. Kyl
Grading PolitiFact: Stimulus bill bureaucracy patterned after British NHS board?
Grading PolitiFact: Giving the "see no evil" treatment to Moveon.org
Grading PolitiFact: Cheney on how many were subjected to waterboarding
Grading PolitiFact: Michele Bachmann on ACORN (Updated x2)
Grading PolitiFact: President Obama on supermax security
Grading PolitiFact: The Judical Confirmation Network and Judge Sotomayor
Grading PolitiFact: Limbaugh on Judge Sotomayor
Grading PolitiFact: Stimulus saving or creating 150,000 jobs?
Grading PolitiFact: O'Reilly and "Tiller the baby killer"
Grading PolitiFact: President Obama and TARP profits
Grading PolitiFact: Markey on the costs of cap & trade
Grading PolitiFact: Obama and the "biggest drivers of the federal deficit"
Grading PolitiFact: Michele Bachmann, the Constitution and the census
Grading PolitiFact: Michele Bachmann on ACORN being "in charge"
Grading PolitiFact: Paul Krugman and a mere $1.8 trillion
Grading PolitiFact: Health care rationing equivocation
Grading PolitiFact: Did Bush sit on troop request?
Grading PolitiFact: Michele Bachmann and Dr. Emanuel's health care policy
Grading PolitiFact: Rush Limbaugh and the Obama circumcision mandate
Grading PolitiFact: Glenn Beck's disparagement of RomneyCare
Grading PolitiFact: Rep. Young and the Obama "go away" (Updated x3)
Grading PolitiFact: Sarah Palin and the cost of health care
Grading PolitiFact: Glenn Beck and dog insurance
Grading PolitiFact: Tom McClintock, taxes, recessions and presidents
Grading PolitiFact: Sarah Palin, campaigning, and ACORN
Grading PolitiFact: Orrin Hatch: Tolstoy v. health care bill
Grading PolitiFact: Ed Schultz and heathcare reform taxes
Grading PolitiFact: Rep. Miller versus Recovery.com
Grading PolitiFact: Glenn Beck and the White House visits
Grading PolitiFact: Bobby Jindal and a national record for the New Orleans Saints (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: James Inhofe and the science of climate change
Grading PolitiFact:: Karl Rove and President Obama's approval rating

2010

Grading PolitiFact: Cheney, war on terrorists, and the reluctant Obama
Grading PolitiFact: Michael Bloomberg and financial sector pay
Grading PolitiFact: Giuliani and the Bush record on homeland terrorist attacks
Grading PolitiFact: Newt Gingrich and Interpol
Grading PolitiFact: Donna Brazile and Obama approval
Grading PolitiFact: Obama on independent voting records
Grading PolitiFact: President Obama and what happened before he walked in the door
Grading PolitiFact: Obama says he cut taxes for 95 percent
Grading PolitiFact: McCain reversal on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?
Grading PolitiFact's grading of the stimulus bill
Grading PolitiFact: Paul Krugman compares Massachusetts with the U.S. of A
Grading PolitiFact: Bill McCollum and congressional pay raises (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: McCain the maverick? (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact (Texas): John Cornyn and the importance of judicial experience (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Chris Matthews and Cheney's signing bonus
Grading PolitiFact: Carly Fiorina on Barbara Boxer's national security priorities
Grading PolitiFact (Florida): Dan Fanelli's ObamaCare ad
Grading PolitiFact: George Will on perfect game umpiring
Grading PolitiFact (Georgia): Roy Barnes and scraping gold off the capitol dome
Grading PolitiFact: Sen. DeMint and unanimous consent (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Sen. DeMint and unanimous consent--version 2
Grading PolitiFact: Sarah Palin & defense spending (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Joe Biden & the Iraq partition plan
Grading PolitFact (Ohio): Sherrod Brown and presidential job creation
Grading PolitiFact (Georgia): Nathan Deal and birther dabbling
Grading PolitiFact: Alan Grayson announces the rankings
Grading PolitiFact: Boxer vs. Rice
Grading PolitiFact: Ann Coulter and terrorist attacks
Grading PolitiFact (Florida): Rick Scott and private sector Stimulus jobs
Grading PolitiFact (Florida): Alan Grayson and illegal divorce
Grading PolitiFact (Rhode Island): John Loughlin, Social Security and Ponzi schemes
Grading PolitiFact: Alan Grayson defines his opponent
Grading PolitiFact: Chris Coons and his phantom fact
Grading PolitiFact: Michael Bennet, Ken Buck and the abortion issue
PolitiFlub: The SEIU take on the Fair Tax
Grading PolitiFact: Dan Coats and Medicare creep
Grading PolitiFact (Florida): Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio's alleged You're either with me or leave the country
Grading PolitiFact: President Obama and job loss timing
Grading PolitiFact: The NRSC and "the deciding vote"
Grading PolitiFact (Texas): Rick Perry and the lightbulb police
Grading PolitiFact: Rand Paul and the public-private employment gap
Grading PolitiFact (Texas): Rick Perry and Ponzi schemes
Grading PolitiFact (Virginia): Eric Cantor and small business taxes
Grading PolitiFact (Ohio): Sherrod Brown claims unemployment is insurance, not welfare
Grading PolitiFact (Virginia): Bobby Scott and the cost of tax compromise

2011

Grading PolitiFact (Georgia): Ray McBerry and the black Confederate soldier
Grading PolitiFact: Frank Lautenberg and murders or guns or something (Updated)
Grading PolitiFact: Michelle Malkin and the White House brand
Grading PolitiFact (Texas): MLK's voting record
Grading PolitiFact (Ohio): Dennis Kucinich and faux health care dollars
Grading PolitiFact: Eric Cantor and "job-killing" ObamaCare
Grading PolitiFact: O'Reilly v. Obama on health care reform approval (Updated x2)
PolitiFact's numbers racket
Grading PolitiFact: John Boehner and adding 200k federal jobs
Grading PolitiFact: Obama and shifting "domestic discretionary spending"
Grading PolitiFact (Wisconsin): Paul Ryan and the Madison riots
Grading PolitiFact (Wisconsin): Scott Walker and the budget repair plan
Grading PolitiFact: Mitt Romney and Obama's apologies
Grading PolitiFact (Virginia): Tim Kaine on jobs & pop
Grading PolitiFact (Ohio): Tom Niehaus and the defecation implication
Grading PolitiFact (Wisconsin): Mike Huebsch and the capitol cleanup
Grading PolitiFact (Wisconsin): Michael Moore and the richest 400

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