Sunday, December 13, 2015

Angie Drobnic Holan and the Times do some fact-chucking

Does PolitiFact accuse politicians of lying?

In a Dec. 7, 2015 review of a research paper I published over at Zebra Fact Check, I assured readers PolitiFact consistently says it avoids accusing politicians of lying, its "Pants on Fire" rating and "Lie of the Year" awards notwithstanding.

Days later, on Dec. 11, 2015, The New York Times published an op-ed by PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan that threatened to contradict my claim.

Though the Times' headline proclaimed "All Politicians Lie," the op-ed never really supports its blaring headline. Holan herself does not use the word "lie" in her op-ed and doesn't even refer to the concept of intentional deception--the most commonly understood meaning of "lie."

So, aside from the title of the op-ed, Holan stays consistent with PolitiFact's stance that it does not accuse politicians of intentionally deceiving people.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Holan's op-ed is misleading.
I’ve been fact-checking since 2007, when The Tampa Bay Times founded PolitiFact as a new way to cover elections. We don’t check absolutely everything a candidate says, but focus on what catches our eye as significant, newsworthy or potentially influential. Our ratings are also not intended to be statistically representative but to show trends over time.
Jeff, the other editor at PolitiFact Bias, highlighted Holan's literary pretzel on Twitter. What kind of trends do non-representative statistics show?

They show a non-representative trends, that's what kind. Anyone inclined to say differently should make their case by supporting with representative sampling the trend PolitiFact represents with its graphs and numbers. And after that vet PolitiFact's findings for accuracy and consistency. Without both, the graphs should not be taken seriously.

Even without knowing that journalists tend to lean ideologically left, it's irresponsible and misleading to present claims such as Holan's without real supporting evidence.

Shame on PolitiFact. Shame on Angie Drobnic Holan. Shame on The New York Times.

"Most dishonest" based merely on whether statements are true or false? Isn't that dishonest?



Clarification Dec. 13, 2015: The original caption under our image capture ended with "That's dishonest." We changed that to "Isn't that dishonest?" to change it from an apparent contradiction into an paradoxical charge against The New York Times.

Clarification Dec. 14, 2015:  Fixed some minor grammatical flaws.

No comments:

Post a Comment