Accusing the Journal Sentinel’s continuing feature PolitiFact of persistent bias, leaders of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin say they will no longer respond to inquiries from the fact-checking operation’s reporters.
The party leadership acted after a series of PolitiFact stories they considered unfair, as well as an overall assessment that in its judgments about what to cover as well as its assessments of truth and falsity, “it just seems consistently weighted to one side,” [DPW communications director Graeme] Zielinski says.
I’m well-acquainted with the Right’s suspicion of PolitiFact, having originated with the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, both well-known left-leaning newspapers in Florida. The Right is also suspicious of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of it’s left-leaning tendencies.
I’m also aware of the left side of the Cheddarsphere’s frustration with the Journal Sentinel which they lump together in one big lump with WTMJ 620 and WTMJ 4 under the Journal Communications, Inc. parent company. They believe the organization is right-leaning based on the WTMJ 620 talkers, Patrick McIlheran and others. I believe they also uncovered one of the Board of Directors contributing to a Republican candidate, bu I can’t put my hand on the link right now.
In a statement today, the Journal Sentinel editor in charge of PolitiFact, Greg Borowski, stood by the impartiality of the feature.
“At PolitiFact Wisconsin, our mission is to serve our readers by examining political statements to determine their accuracy — but also to identify where those statements are inflated, misleading or simply wrong. We do this by turning to outside sources to provide context to the issue, as well as by clearly stating how we came to the conclusion we did and what sources and reasoning we used to get there,” Borowski said.
Both left and right have had their problems with PolitiFact. One source of contention is the “Truth-o-meter” which does often seem pretty subjective. Other popular fact-checkers don’t have anything comparable, to my knowledge. As the author of the article writes,
Even so, PolitiFact’s critics have a point, but it’s a bit more complicated than partisan bias. The larger problem remains in its simplistic rating system and especially the incendiary “Pants on Fire” category, which doesn’t appear to be consistently applied.
He also notes,
Here [in wisconsin] the criticism has been most vocal among political activists on the left.
I not sure why that is. I sure my friends on the right think they’re biased, too; they just don’t seem to write about it.If they are some links to right-leaning posts, I would be glad to share them here.
By contrast, the national PolitiFact operation appears to get more criticism from conservatives.
Zielinski, who once worked for the Journal Sentinel, went on to say,
“We will deal with the Journal Sentinel. We have to,” he says. “It’s the largest newspaper in the state. We have good relationships with many of their reporters.”
But PolitiFact, he says, “is an instrument that we don’t think profits us anything, because we believe we’ve worked in good faith with them and not seen fair results.”
The writer of the article then states,
On the one hand, a casual examination of how party affiliation lines up with ratings from True to Pants-on-Fire makes doesn’t make an obvious case of bias for or against either side of the political spectrum. (You can see for yourself; if you disagree, feel free to comment below.) Did you know, for instance, that 17 of Gov. Scott Walker’s 27 statements to be rated so far have been labeled as “Barely True,” “False,” or (in one instance) “Pants on Fire”? That seems difficult to square with a claim of consistent bias against Democrats.
No doubt the comment section will fill fast.
He sums up,
Perhaps the single biggest improvement in PolitiFact would be if there was just a little less of it, with topics more carefully chosen.
That might be something to shoot for. We don’t need a daily truth detector; and we don’t expect it to be perfect.
And, please, get rid of the “truth-o-meter.”