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PolitiFact has had the same mission since it started in 2007: To give people the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy. Never has that mission felt as important as it does in 2022.
The Jan. 6 insurrection was a dramatic moment of democracy under assault. But it was the outward manifestation of events that brewed for many years: Cynicism about democratic government. Misinformation alleging nonexistent voter fraud. A softening prohibition against political violence. The overturning of long established campaign norms. Loyalty as a litmus test rather than competence or principle. Elected officials who sought power and policies even when a majority of the public opposed them.
The stakes are high for democracy, which means we need to execute on that simple-sounding mission statement with even more intensity, determination and vigor.
To that effect, PolitiFact in 2022 is recommitting to our core mission in a number of specific ways.
- We commit to holding the powerful accountable. We continue to monitor and fact-check President Joe Biden and party leaders in Congress, and to fact-check policy issues and proposals as they arrive in the normal course of government.
- We commit to thorough and accurate coverage of election integrity and the mechanics of voting. This includes debunking baseless accusations of voter fraud, putting actual instances of rare voter fraud in proper context, and continually explaining the way that election law and voting works, both on the national and local levels.
- We commit to intensive coverage of specific races for elective office. Even though our staff is small, we still believe we offer distinctive fact-checking coverage that illuminates key races. These include the presidency and swing House districts and Senate races. We will explain how we make our choices as the year goes on and seek resources to expand our coverage. We will focus on substantive, policy-based coverage, in addition to correcting frivolous claims and attacks.
- We commit to debunking misinformation, especially where it seems to thrive on social networks. Our first priority will be to combat misinformation that threatens democracy, elections and public health, but we’ll also continue to correct misinformation on any aspect of American life. If someone sees something on the internet and has a hunch that it isn’t true, we hope they’ll find an answer at PolitiFact.
- We’ll support our fellow fact-checkers in debunking additional misinformation that we haven’t fact-checked, especially through the International Fact-checking Network, an independent group of fellow fact-checkers around the world committed to accuracy, nonpartisanship and transparency.
PolitiFact began in 2007 specifically as a way to cover elections and to bring more substance and accountability to political journalism. We hoped that other journalists would cite our fact-checks and be inspired to more regularly use fact-checking methods in their traditional political stories. We believe that we have made substantial progress on that mission. But it’s not done.
There are many signs that democracy is being threatened as never before. We are learning more about some of the planning behind the Jan. 6 attack, especially about former President Donald Trump’s hopes of seeing the election subverted, either by putting forward alternate slates of electors or by having then-Vice President Mike Pence invalidate the results. Neither of these things came to pass, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future.
Exhausting the public’s trust in democratic processes is another dangerous harbinger of autocracy. So is the vilification of journalists. When civil society loses its ability to self-govern, the first targets of those grabbing power are independent journalists and an independent judiciary.
During our time at PolitiFact, we’ve seen people target fact-checkers for criticism and calumny. We’ve gone from having an earned reputation as being nerdy hall monitors of the internet to being vilified as censors and traitors. Our reporters regularly receive email with vile insults that specifically targets our gender, our ethnicity or our perceived religious backgrounds, or lack thereof.
Yet we remain committed, more than ever, to our mission to give people the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy. And since 2007, we’ve developed a core of supporters who assist us with small monthly contributions to support our work. (Join them today with your own contribution.) Their support continues to be the backbone of our self-sustaining nonprofit business model.
Our supporters share our desire to keep alive the values of evidence-based reporting and factual analysis at a time when fact-based discourse is under threat. Together, we will keep those values alive in the years to come.