Thursday, April 12, 2012

PolitiFact Florida editor Angie Drobnic Holan on WMNF

Angie Drobnic Holan, recently named editor at PolitiFact Florida, appeared for an interview last month on WMNF, a Tampa Bay area public radio station.

The interview overall was relatively mundane, serving mostly as a forum for liberal callers to recycle their most popular recent complaints about PolitiFact ("Lie of the Year" for 2011, Rubio saying the U.S. is majority conservative, etc.). 

Drobnic Holan did offer up a self-assessment of the fact check operation that we might want to refer to later on down the line, however:
We've published almost 5,000 fact checks since we got started.  We do not get it right every single single (sic) time.  Mitch, you're a journalist [crosstalk]

Let me tell you what we do do.  We correct errors.  There were no, um, errors of fact in this particular report, but sometimes there have been, and we correct those quickly, we note them.  Every now and then, a handful of claims, we say "You know, we got the Truth-O-Meter rating on that one wrong." 

So, our typical procedure is, we go back, we report it again, uh, we have a procedure where a reporter researches and writes the report and three editors sign off on the ruling.  So when we look at rulings again, uh, we have all the editors look at it again.  Um, so, you know, that's a handful of rulings.  The majority--the vast majority--of rulings are, uh, you know, not second-guessed [If only I had the time!--ed.] in any way.

And I would also add that when you go to PolitiFact, when you read our reports, uh, we do something that you don't often see in journalism.  We have a source list where we list all of our sources., we hyperlink to all of the data, list everybody we interviewed, and in our story we carefully explain our logic.  So, what's interesting to me is oftentimes when readers, um, disagree with our work and very passionately disagree with us, they disagree with us using evidence that we gave them.  It's not like they're going out and researching these things and uncovering these facts, I mean it's, it's, it's very much of a, um, of a, of a--they know things now they didn't know before they read the report.
I find it at least as interesting the many times that others go beyond PolitiFact's research (finding additional facts or additional context; examples of both are legion), inform PolitiFact of the additional information and then PolitiFact does absolutely nothing discernible in response. 

Not that a critic needs to find new information to offer a legitimate criticism, of course.

But I guess her response serves Drobnic Holan's PR purposes better in the context of a radio interview.

Jeff adds: Drobnic Holan highlights PolitiFact's supposed transparency by listing "everybody we interviewed." What she failed to mention was that they don't include the transcripts of those interviews. More than one of those interviewees has publicly complained that PolitiFact took their responses out of context. One even pointed out the questions appeared biased from the start:
What struck me about Jacobson’s message was it asked if Romney’s statement was “technically true” and “what context does this ignore,” which carried the clear implication – as I warned Jacobson in my reply – that he’d already decided what he was going to write.
Given PolitiFact's propensity for statement distortion, simply naming people they emailed hardly inspires confidence about their integrity. Until PolitiFact provides the full context of their interviews, the list is little more than window dressing.  

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