Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Piquing PolitiFact: Corrections and $timulu$

I pointed out some time ago that PolitiFact had reported a figure for the Obama stimulus package that was off by a factor of a billion. I subsequently pointed out the error at PolitiFact's FaceBook page.

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Bryan White
Bryan White
Rep. Young offered a fair paraphrase of Obama. The PolitiFact writer seems to be the one who provided the quotation marks. The writer also mischaracterized the topic of Obama's comments. It wasn't the economy. It was the deficit, and Obama as much as admitted responsibility for almost a third of it. And one last (minor) thing: a $787 stimulus package? This was a poor excuse for journalism.
November 12 at 4:57am · Delete · Report

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Granted, I pointed out the error in what may be regarded as a subtle way.

After that, on occasion I would swing by the PolitiFact entry containing the error. Nothing changed.

Noting that Angie Drobnic Holan (who appears to wholly or mostly handle PolitiFact comments at Facebook) solicits e-mail pointing out errors, I offered an alternative suggestion. Why not dedicate a thread on the "Discussions" page to errors?

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Post #1
You wroteon November 20, 2009 at 11:22am
PolitiFact encourages readers to point out errors by sending e-mail.
But why not use public posting for the same function? How hard would it be to dedicate a thread to alleged inaccuracies?
As a bonus, an open system enhances accountability and public awareness.

Would PolitiFact seriously not bother to change the amount of the stimulus bill from $787 to $787 billion simply because nobody wants to go through the trouble of e-mailing the complaint?

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I never received any reply to my message, but today I noticed that PolitiFact finally fixed the error. But apparently without any correction notice. Protect the brand! Error? We made no error.

Ever the helpful sort, I added another message to the thread:
Hey, thanks for fixing the stimulus spending number that had been off by a factor of a billion!

But now I'm curious. Did PolitiFact hold off until the error was pointed out via e-mail or act on the basis of commentary at the FaceBook page? And the page in question carries no notice that it has been updated or corrected for error. Is that common practice at the Times?

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