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Support PolitiFact: Join the Truth Squad

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan January 17, 2017
Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman January 17, 2017

PolitiFact started in 2007 as a one-of-a-kind idea that no one was sure would work. Full-time fact-checkers covering the presidential election through an online, database-driven website. A gimmicky meter with different colors and a fiery .GIF.

People couldn’t say our name, and politicians didn’t return our calls.

But readers loved it.

More than nine years and 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact continues to experiment with new forms of accountability journalism. We launched promise-tracking projects like the Obameter and, just today, the Trump-O-Meter. We created a curation of the best fact-checking around the Web, called Beyond the Truth-O-Meter. We created partnerships with local newsrooms to fact-check state, county and city officials. We started tracking pundits through PunditFact, and we fact-check claims about global health and development through the PolitiFact Global News Service.

Along the way, we also became the first website to win a Pulitzer Prize and helped fact-checking journalism spread around the world.

As we've innovated, we've also looked for ways to make our journalism sustainable. Our project was launched by the Tampa Bay Times, a regional newspaper that is one of the best in the country. The newspaper, our digital advertising sales, grants and the occasional Kickstarter support our work. But we want to grow.

Today, we launch a new project to create what we hope will be a steady source of longterm funding. We're asking our readers to contribute to us directly through a new membership program called the Truth Squad.

You can read more about the program here.

As readers have cheered us on, plenty of politicians have actively rooted against us. At the 2012 Republican National Convention, journalists challenged Mitt Romney’s campaign team about an ad that falsely claimed Barack Obama was ending work requirements for welfare. Romney pollster Neil Newhouse responded by saying, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."

We’ve been on the other end of phone calls with plenty of political teams -- and often the politicians themselves -- complaining about our work.

But then there’s you. Our readers.

You’ve supported our work for more than nine years and helped us grow our staff, our focus and our influence.

You’ve been our first line of eyes and ears, tipping us off to possible falsehoods (keep them coming at [email protected]) and then defending our work on social media without us ever asking.

You’ve written us checks unsolicited and asked that we keep fighting for the truth.

You’ve always been part of the website. Now we want to formalize that relationship.

Membership campaigns have been around a long time. NPR's been doing it for years. But this campaign took some doing. As a website housed at a newspaper, we had no infrastructure for seeking contributions. We're not a nonprofit (though our owner is a nonprofit), so contributions are not tax deductible. We're a unique organization, and our membership program reflects that.

We’ve been working with a group of nonprofit news organizations, led by Voice of San Diego, for several months to build the look and feel of the Truth Squad. You have the ability to donate once, once a month or once a year. Members will get access to special perks like a members-only Facebook group, virtual coffees with the PolitiFact staff and possibly a color-changing Pants on Fire mug. Again, you can get a full break down here.

We hope reader contributions will help us as we work to find a financially sustainable model for public accountability journalism in the 21st century. Our independence is incredibly valuable to us, and we don't let anyone -- not politicians, not grant-making groups, not anyone -- tell us what to fact-check or what our Truth-O-Meter rulings should be. At PolitiFact, those decisions are made solely by journalists. With your help, they always will be.

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Support PolitiFact: Join the Truth Squad