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Ask PolitiFact: What is PolitiFact's agenda?
Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan July 20, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • PolitiFact's goal is to give people the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy.
     
  • PolitiFact doesn't take the side of any politician or party. We seek the truth wherever it lies.
     
  • PolitiFact is a nonprofit self-sustaining newsroom. We get reader contributions, take advertising, sell our content and accept grants. No one tells us what to fact-check or has a say in our ratings. Only PolitiFact journalists get to operate the Truth-O-Meter. 

What is PolitiFact’s agenda? It’s a question we get often from readers, Facebook users, people on Twitter, politicians and the general public. Everybody has an agenda, they say, and they want to know what PolitiFact’s is. 

PolitiFact does have an agenda, but it might not be the kind you’re thinking of. It’s an agenda that involves monitoring the public conversation, conducting thorough research, interviewing experts and questioning government agencies and political campaigns. 

Our agenda is simple: To give people the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy.

PolitiFact was born at a daily newspaper in 2007, brainstormed into action as a more compelling way for reporters to cover elections. Fortunately for us, that election-year project blossomed and grew into an ongoing fact-checking website. 

Today we still cover elections, but we fact-check so much more: the legislative process, television punditry, advocacy groups, online misinformation. In 2018, the Tampa Bay Times newspaper transferred ownership of PolitiFact to the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. The move allowed PolitiFact to grow, and it means PolitiFact is now owned by a nonprofit with a mission to strengthen journalism and inform citizens. 

Journalists have run PolitiFact since its inception. As individuals, we have different work histories, educational backgrounds and life experiences. But together we have a commitment to rigorous, independent truth-seeking. 

Our agenda is to work hard to find out the facts, because we think democracy works best when people know the truth. We want to help grow an informed electorate that understands the issues, the candidates and their positions. 

We don’t take sides with political parties or ideologies. Politicians come and go, parties win elections or lose them, societies change, and life marches on. Our goal is to stay the course, following the most important issues from year to year, providing context and insight whenever possible. Ultimately, we believe the power differential between the governing and governed is evened out when voters have access to the best available version of the truth.  

We intend our work to be for the public good, so in many ways our agenda is altruistic. But make no mistake, it’s also a selfish altruism — we have fun doing this work. We’re naturally curious people who want to know why the world works the way it does and how our current circumstances came to be. We get a kick out of posing challenging questions to the powerful and the self-important, and holding politicians accountable for what they say. We like writing, and clean, effective prose gives us the satisfaction that we’re communicating well. We think it’s cool to make YouTube video fact-checks that help us reach new audiences. 

We like our work so much that we’ve worked tirelessly to develop a sustainable business model that will allow us to continue to practice independent journalism. Our revenues include reader contributions (click here if you’d like to make one), online advertising, licensing of our fact-checking content to other news organizations and technology platforms, and grants from charities and philanthropic groups. We look for donors who share our beliefs in the necessity of an informed electorate. 

Because of our ethical beliefs in independent journalism, we don’t want to be beholden to any advertiser or charity. Most of our online advertising is automated, so we don’t hear from advertisers about individual fact-checks. Our grant agreements with philanthropies have clauses asserting our editorial independence. Decisions on coverage, what to fact-check, and our beloved Truth-O-Meter ratings are determined solely by PolitiFact’s independent journalists.

So what does our agenda look like from day to day? Our agenda is following the news. It’s looking for claims that would make people say, "Hmmm, I wonder if that’s true?" It’s fact-checking anyone, anywhere. It’s ultimately following the facts wherever they lead, whether the rating is True or Pants or Fire, whether the speaker is Democratic or Republican.

The PolitiFact agenda is facts. The PolitiFact agenda is solid, independent journalism. The PolitiFact agenda is keeping you informed, so that democracy may continue in the 21st century.

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Ask PolitiFact: What is PolitiFact's agenda?