when The Dallas Morning News hired me last year to be managing editor, I had the idea it would be cool to bring PolitiFact to this community.
PolitiFact is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, national website that launched in 2007 and partners with newsrooms throughout the country to do state and local fact-checking. The reporting is objective, nonpartisan and dependent on primary sources and original documentation.
Texas was the first state to join the PolitiFact network in partnership with the Austin American-Statesman.
Now that partnership extends to The Dallas Morning News as PolitiFact Texas.
Editors and reporters from TheNews gathered in Dallas last week to train in the PolitiFact principles with PolitiFact Managing Editor Katie Sanders.
Soon you will see PolitiFact stories on dallasnews.com and in the newspaper. These will come from reporters at TheNews, Statesmen and PolitiFact.
What will we fact-check? The reporting will focus on things that make the average person wonder, “Is that true?” We’ll look to topics in the news in Texas, what elected officials are saying, whatever is capturing the conversation. You can expect the legislative session to be an immediate focus for us.
PolitiFact reporting is comprehensive and thorough, using on-the-record interviews, along with Google searches, previous fact-checks, government data, experts and whatever independent resources can be found. Reporters always independently verify information from elected officials and contact the person whose facts are being checked. And get this: Each story includes a list of sources the reporter used, every website, every interview, every academic study, government report or database consulted. Everything. The idea is you can see the work and come to your own conclusion.
If you’re not familiar with PolitiFact, part of the fun, but also where people tend to disagree, is that every fact-check gets a rating on a six-point scale of truthiness:
true – The statement is accurate and nothing significant is missing.
Mostly True – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
Half True – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.
Mostly False – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
False – The statement is not accurate.
Pants on Fire – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.
How do the ratings get determined? You might be surprised to know that each fact-check was vetted by a panel of three editors focused on a few questions. Is the statement literally true? Is there another way to read the statement? Is the statement open to interpretation? Did the speakers provide evidence? Did the speakers prove the statement to be true? How have we handled similar statements in the past? What is PolitiFact’s jurisprudence?
Sometimes the rating is unanimous. Other times, it’s a heady discussion.
I know this because I helped start PolitiFact when it sprouted in the then-St. Petersburg Times newsroom in 2007, working as a reporter and then editor over several years as the website expanded into national prominence. PolitiFact was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for its coverage of the 2008 presidential election.
These days, PolitiFact is owned by The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school and research organization in St. Petersburg, Fla., that owns the Tampa Bay Times.
“PolitiFact’s roots in Texas run deep,” said Sanders from PolitiFact. “We’re thrilled to expand this reporting so more politicians are held to account for what they tell Texas voters and readers.”
PolitiFact reporting goes to the heart of our mission at The Dallas Morning News, which is to cover issues that impact the North Texas community. That means state and national politics that intersect with interests here. Expect to see stories that bring context to complex topics and clarity to crowded areas of discourse.
The Dallas Morning News is excited to bring PolitiFact reporting to our readers. And, you can be a part of it. Reader suggestions are welcome. If you hear something and genuinely wonder if it’s true, let us know. Email [email protected] with your ideas. Or feel free to reach out directly to me at [email protected].