Saturday, December 16, 2017

Update on that Pulitzer Prize mark of excellence

How often have we seen people appeal to PolitiFact's 2009 Pulitzer Prize as proof of its standard of accuracy?

We've tried to explain to people that the Pulitzer judges aren't likely to fact check the fact checkers. The Pulitzer judges look for things like style, impact and relevance.

Thankfully, we just ran across an interview that helps make our point.

The interviewer, James Warren, says he served on a Pulitzer jury (confirmed), and states the rules prevented him from following his impulse to fact check the work he was judging:
Does the rise of fact-checking play into a new era at all? I recall a few times as a judge wanting to independently verify stuff in entries but not being allowed to. I might have wanted to know if a claimed exclusive was really what an entry later claimed.
I'm not sure it's the role of the jury to second-guess work that is being submitted. Now it might be like a parent who over-praises their child. But that's only a matter of enthusiasm, not dishonesty. I don't think there's much of a record at all of Pulitzers suffering from choosing work that hasn't lived up to what it's awarded.
Warren said he was not allowed to independently verify material from Pulitzer entries.

It's worth noting that the interviewee, new Pulitzer Prize chief Dana Canedy, appears to affirm that Pulitzer juries do not see fact-checking contest entries as any part of the job.

It makes no sense to regard the Pulitzer Prize as any type of guarantee of journalistic accuracy. The jurors assume that the submitted works adhere to basic journalistic principles of accuracy and fairness unless the works themselves obviously contradict that idea.

Trust PolitiFact in 2018 because of a Pulitzer Prize awarded in 2009? Bad idea.

And it would have been a bad idea to trust PolitiFact in 2010 based on the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

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