Friday, May 25, 2012

The trouble with the disappearance of the original "Julia" fact check

Earlier this week, PolitiFact published a fact check of the Medicare portion of the Obama campaign's "Life of Julia" Web ad.

Hours later, PolitiFact scrubbed the fact check from its website.   A message appeared on PolitiFact's Facebook page saying that the article was "unpublished" so that PolitiFact could address reader criticisms.

PolitiFact took a big step backward this week with its transparency.  In past instances PolitiFact archived the flawed version of a story.  That was a good policy.

The new approach is puzzling.  It isn't hard at all to find guidelines for journalistic ethics strongly discouraging the removal of a whole online story.

What happened? 

Did PolitiFact institute a new policy?  Did a person handling Web content act without approval from up above?  The former appears more likely given the Facebook announcement.

PolitiFact's actions did mitigate some of the ethical black clouds.  The story was not permanently deleted.  The new version carries a "CORRECTION" notice in keeping with PolitiFact's statement of standards and it explains the differences between the old version of the story and the new version (just trust 'em!).

However, the new policy is not likely to assist PolitiFact in building an image of reliability.

As for the "Julia" fact check itself, a review will appear before long at Sublime Bloviations.

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