PolitiFact turns 4!
By Bill Adair
Published on Friday, August 19th, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.
Four years is a long time in American politics.
It is two terms in Congress or one in the White House. In some cases, it can be an entire presidency.
So we're happy to celebrate PolitiFact's fourth anniversary -- and emphasize that we have no plans to leave office. (We're not term-limited.)
Since we launched on Aug. 22, 2007, we have published more than 4,000 Truth-O-Meter items, which we believe makes PolitiFact the largest fact-checking effort in history. We've also created the promise meter, a new form of accountability journalism that tracks campaign promises by President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans.
Our 4,000 Truth-O-Meter fact-checks have helped readers make sense of political debates and the daily discourse. We've checked everything from the effectiveness of the economic stimulus to the price of Slim Jims, from the magnitude of U.S. debt to the price of delivering a gallon of gas to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Politicians are paying attention. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said PolitiFact "makes us a little more cautious about what we repeat."
Our work has been honored with a Digital Edge Award, two Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism and the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
We just introduced the first fact-checking app for iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices -- an app that Apple last month declared "hot."
Our fact-checking is spreading. We've created a national network of sites with newspapers around the county that publish fact-checking at the state and local level. We have PolitiFact sites in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oregon, Virginia and New Jersey.
In addition to the Truth-O-Meter, the state sites also have their own campaign promise features such as the Walk-O-Meter, which follows the pledges of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and the Buck-O-Meter, which tracks the promises of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
With our national site and our nine state affiliates, there are now more than 30 journalists dedicated to PolitiFact around the country. We've also formed a unique partnership in New Hampshire with the Valley News, the Telegraph of Nashua and New Hampshire Public Radio. Reporters from those news organizations are our eyes and ears in the Granite State and publish several Truth-O-Meter items on the presidential candidates every week.
Here's a look at PolitiFact by the numbers on our fourth anniversary:
Total Truth-O-Meter items (includes national and state sites): 4,054
True -- 19%
Mostly True - 17%
Half True - 20%
Mostly False - 14%
False - 21%
Pants on Fire - 9%
Florida - 476
Georgia - 224
New Jersey - 60
Ohio - 238
Oregon - 105
Rhode Island - 133
Texas - 443
Virginia - 142
Wisconsin - 261
(State statistics are from Aug. 17, 2011)
Truth-O-Meter items with the highest traffic:
1. PolitiFact National: Jon Stewart says those who watch Fox News are the "most consistently misinformed." False.
2. PolitiFact Wisconsin: Rachel Maddow says Wisconsin is on track to have a budget surplus this year. False.
3. PolitiFact Wisconsin: Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans. True.
4. PolitiFact National: Tea party photo shows huge crowd — at different event. Pants on Fire.
5.PolitiFact National: Glenn Beck says less than 10 percent of Obama Cabinet has worked in private sector. False.
Odds and ends from the past year
The Truth-O-Meter on the Daily Show -- Jon Stewart earned a False for a claim he made during a Fox News interview and then, after apologizing for his mistake, read a list of False and Pants on Fire ratings earned by people on Fox.
Confessions and apologies -- A sizeable number of politicians and pundits acknowledged they were wrong after receiving False ratings, including Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann.
PolitiFact cartoon -- Editorial cartoonist Chip Bok featured PolitiFact in his July 4th cartoon. It showed a donkey and an elephant standing in front of the Declaration of Independence, with the donkey saying, "PolitiFact rates it True."
Michele Bachmann's PolitiFact record -- On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer asked Rep. Michele Bachmann why two-thirds of her PolitiFact ratings were False or Pants on Fire. After some back and forth between them, Schieffer said, "I have to say, Congresswoman, I asked you a question and you -- to my knowledge, I don't believe you answered it."
We want to hear your suggestions and comments.
For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.
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