Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two telling quotes from Bill Adair of PolitiFact

Politifact has come in for a lot of criticism recently, some of it from surprising sources. Ramesh Ponnuru of the conservative National Review suggested that, rather than being the "Lie of the Year," the Democrats statements about Medicare were legitimate, while Jonathan Chait, then of the the liberal New Republic, has called the organization on unfair attacks on Republicans.

Without getting into the pros and cons of this most recent debate, I did want to share a couple of quotes from PolitiFact editor-in-chief Bill Adair:

From NPR:
"We're going to make the best calls we can in a pretty gutsy form of journalism," he says. "When we do, I think it's natural that the people on one side or other of this very partisan world we live in are going to be unhappy."
And from PolitiFact itself:
The most over-the-top response (was it tongue-in-cheek?) was a rant from Jim Newell in Gawker under the headline "Why PolitiFact is bad for you." He conveniently ignored the fact that our fact-checks are based on hours of journalistic research and portrayed them as the work of rogue bloggers with a gimmicky meter.
We've mentioned concerns about the decline of journalism and how various factors compound the problem. This is another one of those compounding factors: the strange obliviousness of many journalists. Adair, on the record, describes his own work as "gutsy." He holds up "hours of journalistic research" as an impressively high standard. He seems incapable of thinking of criticism as being based on anything but partisan bitterness. (If you think I'm cherry-picking here, follow the link above. The whole piece is like this.)

Even if you put aside the many criticisms of PolitiFact (spelled out cogently and with crushing thoroughness by Chait) and view them in the best (and I do mean best) possible light, the most you can say for the organization is that it's doing what we used to think of as standard due diligence from journalists.

1 comment:

  1. This post from Slate was also pretty good:

    My favorite piece:

    "This is false, because Democrats weren't the first to make this characterization. The Wall Street Journal's reporter Naftali Bendavid did, writing that the Ryan plan "essentially ends Medicare.""

    For a fact checking organization, it seems odd to be unable to distinguish between creating a lie and citing a journalistic source. Surely the WSJ should be issuing a correction, right?

    It is, after all, a known pro-Democratic machine in the journalistic world. Just part of that left wing echo chamber.

    In truth, I think the idea that a matter of opinion (is this change large enough to end the program) is an odd place to characterize a "lie".