Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Washington Free Beacon: "Fisking Fiske's Record"

Ordinarily we at PolitiFact Bias highlight stories that provide the best evidences of PolitiFact's liberal bias.  This post doesn't exactly do that.

A recent Washington Free Beacon story presents information it gathered about PolitiFact Virginia editor Warren Fiske's voting history.  Fiske has a history of participating mostly in Democratic Party primaries:
An influential Virginia fact-checker accused of anti-Republican bias has a history of tilting left, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
I'm not impressed with evidence of bias via voting records.  I agree with media critic Jay Rosen's argument that journalism's code of secrecy about political preferences has slipped into obsolescence.  For one thing, the European model of non-objective news coverage has successfully invaded the United States.  Secondly, liberals have taken over mainstream media news to the point that failing to disclose political preferences amounts to dishonesty.

In simple terms, personal preferences need not introduce bias into reporting.  A good reporter (or researcher) will set personal preferences aside or recognize the inability to remain objective.

I support making public information about Fiske's voting record, so long as it doesn't violate the privacy of the voting booth.  The public is entitled to take Fiske's personal bias into account when considering his professional work.

The problem comes when reporters and editors prove unable to separate their ideology from their reporting.  There's a good argument against PolitiFact on that score.

Jeff adds: Count me in the group of those skeptical that a writer's voting record is solid evidence of bias in their reporting. The fact that Fiske tends to vote Democrat is anecdotal, interesting, and hardly surprising, but it doesn't necessarily provide proof that his articles are biased.

For example, one doesn't need to be opposed to abortion to recognize how misleading and dishonest PolitiFact's treatment of abortion ratings have been. Serious reporters should be able to provide unambiguous data to their readers regardless of their personal inclinations.

PolitiFact's liberal bias is evident in the selection of stories and also in the evidence ignored when writing those articles. The fact that PolitiFact writers are liberals may confirm what we already suspect, but in and of itself it's small beer.

PolitiFact's most offensive lie is its presentation of itself as an objective, unbiased resource. Any newspaper, blog, or television station is inherently imbued with the reporter's or host's bias, including this blog. PolitiFact presents itself as beyond these political limitations. PolitiFact is the beautifully dressed Emperor of Objectivity, and only the lowly partisans fail to appreciate the royal dress.

If PolitiFact acknowledged that it is an editorial site, bound by the realities of personal bias, it's doubtful we would have ever started this website, and unlikely that we would have given it a second thought. The reason PolitiFact is so offensive is because it implies a certain amount of scientific authenticity is involved in their work.

Personal voting records are interesting, but the evidence of bias is more appropriately exposed through pointing out the flaws in the fact checks.

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