Thursday, January 11, 2018

PolitiFact Texas transparency update

In a post we titled "PolitiFact Texas unpublished" we described how PolitiFact Texas published an article declaring Gov. Greg Abbott broke his promise to provide leadership training for principals of Texas schools. PolitiFact Texas published that article on Jan. 4, 2018. On Jan. 9, 2018, PolitiFact Texas announced it had taken down (unpublished) the article.

We checked and the article was gone from the PolitiFact Texas website. It was still available, and remains available, at Austin American-Statesman website, one of PolitiFact's partners for PolitiFact Texas.

And on Jan. 11, 2018, PolitiFact republished the old version of the story along with an updated version on the same page. PolitiFact Texas' actions make the temporarily unpublished version of the story look like a normal update, albeit the careful reader may notice that the second update followed just one week after the first one.

We think that's goofy.

Why do we think it's goofy? If the unpublished version of the update was just a normal update later updated with new information, then why unpublish it in the first place? It makes no sense.

In its current form, the story offers readers no hint at all that PolitiFact Texas unpublished the story for two days. Instead, PolitiFact Texas offers its readers this explanation:
Back when he was campaigning to be governor of Texas, Greg Abbott called for training school principals to be better leaders.

Legislative proposals to get such trainings off the ground floundered, however, leading us to rate this Abbott vow a Promise Broken.

But that was before the Texas Education Agency alerted us to other efforts focused on bolstering school leaders.

We decided to look afresh at progress on this promise.
Does PolitiFact Texas downplay the timing of its two updates or what? PolitiFact Texas does mention the date in an editor's note (not labeled as an editor's note) as part of an introduction to the earlier update:
The Abbott-O-Meter update below was posted Jan. 4, 2018. It's eclipsed by the update above:
If it's in italics maybe it automatically counts as an editor's note?

The finished product shows PolitiFact Texas rating a fulfilled promise as broken about a week before reversing itself to declare the promise fulfilled. But with no admission of any error and an incomplete description of what occurred.

PolitiFact thought it had erred, but was mistaken to think so?

We don't quite buy that.

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