Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Media Trackers: "At PolitiFact Ohio, Democrats Outnumber Republicans 4 to 1"

Media critics continue to identify bias in the political affiliation of fact checkers at PolitiFact.

Jason Hart of Media Trackers (Ohio) published a report today indicating a solid majority of the PolitiFact Ohio staff shows as registered Democrats according to election records.

Hart:
Records indicate the following twelve Plain Dealer employees assigned to PolitiFact Ohio are registered Democrats:

  • Robert Higgs, PolitiFact Ohio editor
  • Jane (Murphy) Kahoun, Plain Dealer deputy metro editor
  • Tom Feran, Plain Dealer reporter
  • Henry J. Gomez, Plain Dealer reporter
  • Aaron Marshall, Plain Dealer statehouse reporter
  • Reginald Fields, Plain Dealer statehouse bureau chief
  • Jo Ellen Corrigan, Plain Dealer librarian
  • James Ewinger, Plain Dealer reporter
  • Laura Johnston, Plain Dealer reporter
  • Peter Krouse, Plain Dealer reporter
  • James McCarty, Plain Dealer reporter
  • Robert Schoenberger, Plain Dealer reporter

We at PolitiFact Bias are on record defending the potential ability for a Democrat (or Republican) to report news or even perform news analysis fairly, so we take reports like this one with a grain of salt as supposed proof of a reporting bias.

Clearly, though, Hart's report exposes a failure of disclosure.  PolitiFact presents itself as non-partisan.  Part of PolitiFact's strategy for conveying an image of neutrality is to hide the political affiliations and leanings of its staff members.

In practice, the high proportion of Democrats on the PolitiFact Ohio staff can easily exert an ideological influence on its reporting.  It is a team of three editors who vote on the "Truth-O-Meter" ratings.  Hart identifies no Republican editors at PolitiFact Ohio.  So a Democrat is likely to do the reporting and a majority of Democrats will vote on the "Truth-O-Meter" rating.   Yet people will still criticize PolitiFact Bias compared to PolitiFact because Jeff and I admit we're personally biased against liberalism.

We're the ones exhibiting honesty, inviting readers to take our bias into account when they consider what we write.

If there's one secret the mainstream press is unwilling to divulge to its audience under any circumstances, personal ideology is it.  But it's dishonest to pretend to an objectivity of viewpoint that doesn't exist in reality.

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