Sunday, September 1, 2019

PolitiFact founder: "Bias is good"

It was wasn't even a year ago that PolitiFact pompously announced it isn't biased, but now PolitiFact founder Bill Adair has muddied the waters by announcing from his lofty perch at Duke University that bias is good.

Doubtless it is important to make take Adair's words in context.

We'll certainly try.

Here's the Columbia Journalism Review headline:

Op-ed: Bias is good. It just needs a label.


In context so far: Adair appears to say bias is good if the reader understands it (hence the need for a label).

Adair repeated the same point in the article and then used a graphic to spell out what he's saying:


It's hard not to notice that Adair's graphic appears to concede what we have argued for years here at PolitiFact Bias. Fact-checking is not some kind of objective and scientific pursuit even if we set aside the subjective linear-scale truth ratings. Adair understands fact-checking contains more opinion than does "news analysis," with no other form of journalism closer to "opinion."

Unfortunately Adair does little to distinguish the desirable types of bias he's probably talking about--bias toward truth and democracy, for example--from unhealthy cognitive biases. But at least he gives clear guidance that journalists should appropriately label their work.

Now we just need to find the appropriate label at PolitiFact, right?

PolitiFact is not biased -- here’s why

Okay, great. No problem, right?

Seriously, we're not aware of any prominent acknowledgement of bias labeling at PolitiFact.com.

If such a thing existed, perhaps we should expect to find it on PolitiFact's statement of principles. But we get this instead:
Our ethics policy for PolitiFact journalists

PolitiFact seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases. Our journalists set their own opinions aside as they work to uphold principles of independence and fairness.
Anybody see an expression of the idea "bias is good" in there? We don't.

PolitiFact over its history has encouraged readers to take its biased reporting as objective reporting.

It deceived and continues to deceive its readers by the standard Adair advocates.

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