Monday, August 27, 2018

PolitiFact Illinois: 'Duckwork's background check claim checks out" (Updated x2)


On August 26, 2018 PolitiFact Illinois published a fact check of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) with the title "Duckwork's background check claim checks out."

We find it hard to believe a fact-checking organization could prove so careless it would badly misspell the last name of one of its senators in a headline.

And we find it even harder to believe the error could last until the next day (today) without receiving a correction.

We will update this item to track whether PolitiFact Illinois runs a correction notice when it fixes the problem.

Assuming it fixes the problem.

Update Aug. 27, 2018:

Apparently "Duckwork" is a fairly common misspelling of Sen. Duckworth's name. NPR (Illinois) made a similar mistake in January 2018 and fixed it on the sly. Don't journalists know better? Misspelling a name warrants a transparent correction.

Update Aug. 28, 2018:

Very early on Aug. 28, 2018, I tweeted a message pointing out this error and tagging the author, editor and PolitiFact Illinois.

When I checked hours later PolitiFact had corrected the spelling of Duckworth's name but added no correction notice to the item.

It's important to note, we suppose, that PolitiFact's corrections policy does not obligate it to append a correction notice on the basis of a misspelled name. That policy, in fact, appears to promise that PolitiFact will fix all of its spelling errors without acknowledging error (italics added for emphasis):
Typos, grammatical errors, misspellings – We correct typos, grammatical errors, misspellings, transpositions and other small errors without a mark of correction or tag and as soon as they are brought to our attention.
That seems to us like an unusually low bar for running a correction. Compare the above with the aggressive use of corrections involving misspelled names by PolitiFact's parent organization, the Poynter Institute.

Here's  one example from that page:
‘Newspapers killed newspapers,’ says reporter who quit the business (March 20, 2013)
Correction: This post misspelled Bird’s last name in one instance.
Journalists traditionally seem to give special attention to misspellings involving names. Misspelling a person's name counts as a different degree of error than a minor typographical error:
In journalism schools across Canada this week, many a freshman student will learn one of the foremost lessons of the J-school classroom: Get someone’s name wrong and you get a failing grade.

In the decade I taught at Ryerson University’s journalism school my students understood that no matter how brilliant their reporting and writing, if they messed up a name, they got an automatic F on that assignment. That’s a common policy of most journalism schools.
Apparently the fact checkers at PolitiFact find such obsessive attention to detail quaint.Which we count as a strange attitude for people calling themselves "fact checkers."

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