Tuesday, April 3, 2012

James Wigderson: "Looking for the 'Pants on Fire' rating"

James Wigderson of the Wigderson Library & Pub offered a critique of PolitiFact late last year that we failed to highlight (we'll excuse ourselves based on the huge amount of PolitiFact-related material published in December and January). 

Visit the Library & Pub for the details of the relatively gentle takedown; our takeaway was the final paragraph:
We also give the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s rating system a “pants on fire” rating for failing to have any standards for the public to use to judge whether the Journal Sentinel’s ratings have any meaning.
A most palpable hit.

One may pretend that some of the definitions PolitiFact gives for its ratings allow for objective categorization, but PolitiFact applies its ratings in a manner that seems to defy systematization.  Though some of PolitiFact's writers wisely make an attempt to correlate the fact check's findings to the appropriate definition, those attempts often (if not always) seem subjectively tinged.  The PFB team excepted, who even noticed when PolitiFact changed its definition of "Half True"?

By now so many have leveled the criticism that its novelty has faded well into the past, but it bears repeating:  PolitiFact's rating system is a flop.  It's not worthy of association with fact checking.  It is way too subjective for that.

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