Inside the Meters:

Who is PolitiFact? Who pays for Politifact?

Posted by Angie Drobnic Holan :: Published on Thursday, October 6th, 2011 at 01:42 p.m.

Updated Monday, January 9, 2012 at 11:04 a.m.

As we've gained new readers over the years, every now and then we get e-mails that ask, "Who's paying for this Web site? Who's putting out this information?"

The short answer is this: PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and its partner news organizations to help you find the truth in American politics. (See more about our mission on the "About Us" page.) The Times is the biggest newspaper in the Tampa Bay area and it has the largest circulation of any paper in Florida, so the advertisers and subscribers help foot the bills for PolitiFact.

Yeah, yeah, you say. But who owns the Times ?

The answer to that question is a little long, but interesting.

Back in the 1970s, the Times was owned by Nelson Poynter, whose father Paul Poynter had bought the paper in 1912.

Nelson Poynter had a passion for journalism, especially for independent journalism. As he thought about the future of his newspaper, he knew that he wanted to keep it independent and vigorous, even after his own death. So he created a plan to leave his newspaper, not to his family, but to a nonprofit school for journalism he created for the purpose.

"I haven't met my great-grandchildren. I might not like them," Poynter said.

Poynter died in 1978, and his plan went into place. The school -- now called the Poynter Institute -- owns the newspaper. The Poynter Institute offers seminars and classes to working journalists, educators and students, and its Web site Poynter Online is a clearinghouse for information and news about journalism.

Control of the newspaper and its operations, however, lies with a single executive. Upon retirement, that editor picks a successor. Poynter himself picked Eugene Patterson, who picked Andy Barnes, who picked the Times ' current CEO, Paul Tash.

We know of no other news organization in the country that runs like this.

This is not to say that everything is perfect here. Like most newspapers, the Times has struggled during the economic recession and the migration of news to the Internet.

Since 2010, we have partnered with other news organizations that operate PolitiFact sites in the states. Most of these partners are newspapers such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Austin American-Statesman (both part of the Cox chain) and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Star-Ledger of Newark and the Oregonian (all part of the Advance chain). We have one radio partner, New Hampshire Public Radio.

We accepted underwriting for our PolitiFact Florida project from foundations that seek to improve news coverage or civic discourse. We received money from the Knight Foundation, Craigslist Charitable Fund, and the Collins Center for Public Policy.

But when it comes to the question of "Who is PolitiFact?" or "Who pays for PolitiFact?", we can assure you that no one is behind the scenes telling us what to write for someone else's benefit. We are an independent, nonpartisan news organization. We are not beholden to any government, political party or corporate interest. We are proud to be able to say that we are independent journalists. And for that, we thank Nelson Poynter.

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Sources:

St. Petersburg Times , A chronology of the St. Petersburg Times , June 16, 2009

St. Petersburg Times , Top 10 reasons the St. Petersburg Times reached its 125th anniversary , by Paul Tash, July 19, 2009

The Poynter Institute, About Poynter

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