Inside the Meter

Careful, Alabama politicians: The Truth-O-Meter is listening

PolitiFact is collaborating with AL.com journalists to bring its Pulitzer Prize-winning, fact-checking services to Alabama, thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation.

PolitiFact applied for the grant in the wake of the 2017 presidential campaign, seeking to understand what audiences in primarily "red" cities thought of the state of objective news reporting, following the high-profile proliferation of "fake news." Working with Alabama Media Group —which publishes AL.com, the company’s new, social-media driven news initiative, Reckon; and the (Mobile) Press-Register, The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times — Politifact will focus its research on news consumers in Mobile, Ala., to better understand the needs of news consumers there.

"Independent fact-checking organizations such as PolitiFact make great efforts to present nonpartisan, objective information, yet many audiences see fact-checking outlets as biased," said executive director Aaron Sharockman.  

"We chose Mobile as part of an effort to go into conservative communities to learn what they think about our work and how we can improve how people perceive it," said Sharockman. "We're coming as much to listen as to fact-check."

PolitiFact— which also is working on this project  with news organizations in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charleston, West Virginia — came to Mobile last week to survey people on the street to establish a baseline understanding of trust in news media, presented to the Rotary Club of Mobile and hosted a public forum at the Mobile Public Library to explain what PolitiFact is, and what PolitiFact does. 

The initiative builds on Alabama Media Group’s commitment to listening to the people of Alabama in communities across the state, and is the latest in a number of high profile experiments in civic communications and public participation across the partisan divide, said the company’s Vice President of Content, Michelle Holmes. "We’re excited to see what we learn through PolitiFact’s efforts here, and welcome feedback from our readers on how to better help them navigate the increasingly complex media landscape in America today, no matter what their political leanings," Holmes said.  

PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times, a publishing company owned by The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists.

"No one is off limits from PolitiFact," said Sharockman of the Alabama initiative. "Our aim is to provide clarity to the biggest topics in Alabama politics. We'll spend a lot of time focusing on the Senate election, but we are prepared to fact-check anyone -- from the governor to your mayor to the local dog catcher."