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PolitiFact Founder Bill Adair receives congratulations from Reporter and Researcher Angie Drobnic Holan in the newsroom of the St. Petersburg Times. PolitiFact Founder Bill Adair receives congratulations from Reporter and Researcher Angie Drobnic Holan in the newsroom of the St. Petersburg Times.

PolitiFact Founder Bill Adair receives congratulations from Reporter and Researcher Angie Drobnic Holan in the newsroom of the St. Petersburg Times.

Bill Adair
By Bill Adair April 20, 2009

PolitiFact has won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for our coverage of the 2008 election.

The Pulitzer Board announced the prize during a news conference Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York.

The board cited PolitiFact's use of "probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters." 

Neil Brown, executive editor of the St. Petersburg Times , which launched PolitiFact in August 2007, said the award was "proof that the Web is not a death sentence for newspapers. In fact, PolitiFact marries the power of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism with an extraordinarily powerful way to present it."

Jack McElroy, editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel , wrote that our award was "the most unusual, and most important, Pulitzer Prize this year." 

He wrote, "Online databases are rapidly becoming one of the important tools of watchdog journalism in the digital age. Identifying PolitiFact as the best national reporting of the year will only speed that trend."

During the campaign, PolitiFact had a staff of five Times reporters and editors, plus the support of researchers and writers from Congressional Quarterly , a sister company of the Times . PolitiFact relaunched in January to fact-check Congress and the White House, and added the Obameter, a feature that tracks President Barack Obama’s campaign promises.

PolitiFact's award was one of two Pulitzer Prizes awarded to the St. Petersburg Times Monday. The newspaper also was honored in the Feature Writing category. PolitiFact has begun fact-checking the statements made by cable TV hosts and political pundits and, as the midterm elections near, will expand its fact-checking of state and local races, starting in Florida.


Facts about PolitiFact

  • Launched in August 2007 to fact-check the presidential campaign and then expanded in January 2009 to fact-check members of Congress and the White House. In January, we also launched the Obameter, a new feature tracking President Obama's campaign promises.
  • Truth-O-Meter  — Checks the accuracy of statements by candidates, elected officials, political parties, interest groups, pundits, talk show hosts. PolitiFact writers research the statements and rate them on the Truth-O-Meter.
    • Six ratings on Truth-O-Meter: True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False and Pants on Fire
    • Every official, group and pundit rated by PolitiFact is building a record of statistics on his or her own page that shows how many True, False, etc. ratings have been earned. It also shows the ratings on any statements made against the official. (For example, here are pages for: Barack Obama , John McCain , John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi ).
  • Flip-O-Meter  — Rates when candidates or elected officials have flip-flopped on an issue (No Flip, Half Flip, Full Flop).
  • Obameter  — Tracks 514 promises made by Barack Obama during the campaign, compiled from position papers, campaign Web sites, debate transcripts, speeches and interviews.
    • Promises are rated as No Action, In the Works, Stalled, Promise Kept, Compromise, and Promise Broken. 
    • Each time a promise is updated, we publish an article explaining the latest development and the reason for our rating
    • A Top 25 list shows the progress on Obama's most significant promises
  • Truth-O-Meter items
    • 865 published since August 2007 (89 of those since the January relaunch)
    • Breakdown of ratings
      • 26% True
      • 17% Mostly True
      • 18% Half True
      • 13% Barely True
      • 19% False
      • 6% Pants on Fire
    • Truth-O-Meter ratings are also tracked by subject. The subjects with the most ratings: Taxes (89), Economy (70), Iraq (63).
  • We just published a special page to mark Obama's First 100 Days, with new charts tracking the Top 25 promises and Truth-O-Meter ratings on the Obama White House.
  • PolitiFact items are written by reporters for the St. Petersburg Times , with several working full-time for PolitiFact. During the campaign, writers from Congressional Quarterly also contributed.
  • All Truth-O-Meter, Flip-O-Meter and Obameter items are published on the PolitiFact Web site. Many also appear in the print edition of the St. Petersburg Times . We also send a twice-weekly e-mail to 7,000 subscribers, we have custom RSS feeds and a Twitter feed.
  • State and local PolitiFact items  St. Petersburg Times reporters have done more than two-dozen Truth-O-Meter ratings on state and local officials in Florida.
  • Other Awards  — A National Press Foundation award for online journalism, a Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism, a Digital Edge Award for Best Overall News Site from the Newspaper Association of America and first place for Online Political Reporting in the Green Eyeshade Awards.


  • Expansion plans — This summer, we plan to expand our coverage of pundits and talk show hosts and our state and local fact-checking.


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PolitiFact wins Pulitzer