Saturday, March 3, 2012

Eric Zorn: "True lies: Media umpires confront the challenge of dishonest facts"

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune produced an excellent column criticizing PolitiFact's (and the Washington Post's) approach to fact checking.

Perhaps its biggest flaw comes from the fact that Zorn is so late to the party, like so many other critics from the ranks of mainstream journalists and the political left. 

The pair of quotations near the end of his column cap it off nicely:
"I've never been able to see an academically defensible way to hand out those kinds of ratings," director Brooks Jackson [of FactCheck.org] told me Thursday. "But I secretly admire the ability of (PolitiFact and The Washington Post) to do that. It engages the readers, and it's fun. But we'll leave questions of 'truth' to the theologians and philosophers."

PolitiFact editor Bill Adair told me that "the Truth-O-Meter is the heart of our organization. We'd never consider getting rid of it, but we always encourage people not to look just at the rating, but also at our reasoning."
The "Truth-O-Meter" misleads PolitiFact's audience, just as Zorn and many others have pointed out.  Yet Adair says "We'd never consider getting rid of it."

Would you buy a used car from that guy?

Zorn makes a good number of important points, so please read and digest the entire column.

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