Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"It is a change we don't make lightly"

(crossposted from Sublime Bloviations)

Big news came down from PolitiFact today.  The fact checking organization will change its "Barely True" rating on its "Truth-O-Meter" to "Mostly False."

PolitiFact editor Bill Adair explains:
Today, Barely True becomes Mostly False.

It is a change we don't make lightly. The Truth-O-Meter has been the heart of PolitiFact since we launched the site four years ago, and we were reluctant to tinker with it.
If the powers that be at PolitiFact show such reluctance in making this minor cosmetic change then it sends a strong signal that PolitiFact will remain unwilling to make the substantial changes it would have to make to avoid its ongoing branding as the mainstream cousin to the partisans at Media Matters.

And I can't help but react with a wry smile when PolitiFact makes this change while leaving intact a long-running discrepancy in the descriptions of its ratings.  The "Principles of PolitiFact and the Truth-O-Meter" page describes "Half True" as  "The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context."  At "About PolitiFact" another version of "Half True" reads "The statement is accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context."

Between the new definition of "Half True" and the change from "Barely True" to "Mostly False" where both have the same definition, which is the more significant change?

But don't look for PolitiFact to reconcile its differing definitions with any fanfare.  There is still a reputation to protect.  Look for PolitiFact to (again) break the pledge it made about what it would do when it makes a mistake:
We strive to make our work completely accurate. When we make a mistake, we correct it and note it on the original item. If the mistake is so significant that it requires us to change the ruling, we will do so.

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