PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website of the Tampa Bay Times, will soon launch PunditFact, a site dedicated to checking claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers and the hosts and guests of talk shows.
PunditFact is being funded by $625,000 in grants over two years from the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund. Seed money for the project was provided by craigconnects, a philanthropy group run by Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.
PunditFact is a partnership of PolitiFact and the Poynter Institute, the journalism school that owns the Tampa Bay Times. Poynter will be analyzing the reach and impact of PunditFact and will hold a conference to discuss the results.
The new site will have a dedicated staff of journalists who will research claims by media figures and rate them using PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter. The fact-checks will be published on PunditFact.com and will often be featured on the main PolitiFact site.
Although PolitiFact has done occasional fact-checks of pundits and talk show hosts, the new venture will mark the first time that staffers have been dedicated to checking media figures.
“Pundits on TV and radio, as well as bloggers and columnists, are prominent voices in our political discourse, yet sometimes they blur the lines between opinion and fact,” said Neil Brown, editor and vice president of the Times. “Now we will hold them accountable, much as we’ve done with politicians.”
“Creating broad and nuanced media coverage of complex social issues is all the more difficult when the facts are often disregarded or ignored,” said Jonathan Barzilay, director of the Freedom of Expression Unit at the Ford Foundation. “PunditFact is poised to play a critical part in reaffirming the role of facts in our civic dialogue.”
“We’re pleased to be able to support this effort to encourage pundits of all political stripes to stick to the facts,” said Tom Glaisyer of the Democracy Fund.
Said Newmark: “I just want news I can trust, and PunditFact is a real contribution in the direction of trustworthiness and accountability.”
PunditFact will be an edition of PolitiFact that will invoke the look and feel of the national site. Each fact-check will be part of a pundit’s report card, so readers can see whether his or her ratings skew to the True or False end of the scale. PunditFact will publish analyses of its findings — the patterns of the falsehoods, the most popular talking points and stories about how they originated. The website also will tally ratings by news organization and will publish periodic report cards.
“PunditFact will be about accountability, not sanctimony,” Brown said. “We think consumers of political information will welcome our independent and credible reporting.”
PolitiFact.com was launched in 2007 to fact-check the 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, the site began fact-checking pundits and talk show hosts and created a new feature, the Obameter, to track President Obama’s 500-plus campaign promises. It is now the largest political fact-checking effort, with affiliates in 10 states and Australia. The website has received numerous awards, including the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, two Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism, the Digital Edge Award for Best Overall News Site from the Newspaper Association of America and the National Press Foundation’s Excellence in Online Journalism Award. The site is a product of the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper, with an average circulation of 402,422 Sunday and 340,260 daily (AAM FAS-FAX March 2013). Considered one of the top ten newspapers in the country, the Tampa Bay Times has nine Pulitzer Prizes to its name.
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