Tuesday, June 7, 2011

PolitiGaffe: Of barrels and gallons

OregonLive.com published the following letter (or e-letter) from alert reader "oregondriver":
While you are so quick to find fault with Sarah Palin, you seem to have your facts mixed up in the "PolitiFact.com" article on page A2 of this Sunday's Oregonian: "Palin claim about Obama and oil isn't real, baby, real! In the fourth column you printed: "So a drop in oil production of 130,000 barrels a day in the Gulf of Mexico would mean an additional 130,000 gallons a day from imports." (Emphasis added is mine.) Notice, you cannot replace a barrel of oil with a gallon of oil! Please, before you show disrespect for a person, please make sure that you have all of the "PolitiFact"s correct, otherwise it just another example of media bias without cleaning up after yourself.
That's a good catch--130,000 barrels a day means 130,000 gallons per day to make it up in imports? And while that may seem like an easy gaffe to make, remember that the underlying PolitiFact article hinged on Palin's use of the word "day" versus "year".

The PolitiFact story now reads "barrels" in both instances.  Perhaps "oregondriver" was mistaken?

Not according to Google cache (click to enlarge; highlights are a product of the phrase-specific search):

PolitiFact made no mistake, however.  We know this because when PolitiFact makes a mistake they correct it and place an editor's note in the story:

When we find we've made a mistake, we correct the mistake.
  • In the case of a factual error, an editor's note will be added and labeled "CORRECTION" explaining how the article has been changed.
  • In the case of clarifications or updates, an editor's note will be added and labeled "UPDATE" explaining how the article has been changed.
  • If the mistake is significant, we will reconvene the three-editor panel. If there is a new ruling, we will rewrite the item and put the correction at the top indicating how it's been changed.
With no such editor's note inserted into the article, we know PolitiFact is above the type of honest mistakes and "gotcha"-type flubs they chronicle.

Note: Bryan deserves credit for the research and the bulk of the writing for this post-Jeff
Update 6/10/11: Added day/year clarification in second paragraph-Jeff

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