Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bearing Drift: "Who Watches The Watchers?"

There's been a lot of good criticism on PolitiFact lately, and Brian Schoeneman over at Bearing Drift provides a great example. While his post discusses fact checking and fact checkers in general, he hits the mark when panning three recent PolitiFact ratings that went against Paul Ryan:
What Ryan said in each statement he made was factually accurate.  Politifact claimed what he said was misleading, which is their opinion, not a fact.  Politicians using facts to persuade and not giving the entire context is to be expected, and there’s nothing wrong with it.  We can’t expect a politician to act like a journalist or a lobbyist, presenting both sides of every story.  That’s not what they do.  As Gabriel Mallor noted in the New York Daily News, “the bottom line is that the fact checker criticisms of Ryan’s speech come in only one form: ‘Yes it’s true, but here’s some context that Democrats want to talk about.’ That’s not fact checking; that’s advocacy. And it’s not persuasive, it’s absurd.”

And that’s the point – Ryan’s statements weren’t false, so calling them false is dumb. We should expect more from folks who want to sit in judgment over “the truth.”

When fact checkers stop actually checking facts and begin checking opinion or try to place facts in “context,” they enter into murky water where bias is inevitable.
Schoeneman goes on to offer advice for fact checkers to help them avoid the pitfalls of opinion journalism, and serves up plenty of thoughtful criticism while he's at it. I won't say that Schoeneman writes anything particularly unique or anything that we haven't been saying here for years, but his observations are spot on, well written and carry a message well worth repeating. His post isn't a specific critique of PolitiFact, but he hits so many solid points in such a short post we consider it recommended reading. Check out the entire article here.

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