Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Media Matters bash of PolitiFact

It's fun to look at visitor paths to see what brought folks to a blog. Sometimes it leads to unexpected destinations.

Just now, for instance, a visitor path indirectly directed me to a Media Matters criticism of PolitiFact. The critique came from the Media Matters blog via Jamison Foser:

I'm pretty sure "false" doesn't mean "well, we have no real way of knowing whether it's true or not, but for now, we lean towards thinking it probably isn't, though we reserve the right to change our minds later."

But that's what PolitiFact seems to think it means. The St. Petersburg Times fact-checking web site declares Nancy Pelosi's claim that the Bush administration didn't tell her it was using torture "false," though it pretty much acknowledges it lacks solid basis for doing so (quotation followed)...
It is no secret that I hold Media Matters in disdain for its fact-checking operation. Their fact checks are biased in subject choice and content. But Foser makes a good point, here. PolitiFact never made a solid case against Pelosi, but pulled the lever on the Truth-O-Meter rating anyway. Is it highly likely that Pelosi was lying? Yes, I think so. But where PolitiFact substitutes editorial judgment for a straightforward checking of fact, the reader ought to have some clue that the piece is not fully in the realm of objective journalism.

I remember thinking pretty much the same thing Foser wrote about when I read the PolitiFact item on Pelosi. I'd have pointed it out earlier except for time constraints and my content bias.

Media Matters was right this time.

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