Oh, Those Pesky Truth Tellers
That’s a big reason I remain a fan of PolitiFact. It’s not because I like public reprimands of my husband but because PolitiFact changes how some elected officials and candidates frame their messages and communicate with constituents.
In countless strategy discussions, the question looms: Will this pass the PolitiFact test?
Translation: Are we telling the truth?
It really is this simple:
If you care about being honest with voters, you’re going to be more vigilant about the truth and recalibrate what you say after PolitiFact takes you to task.
If you think voters are idiots, you’ll keep repeating lies no matter how many fact checkers prove you aren’t telling the truth.
In 2008, I interviewed PolitiFact’s editor, Bill Adair, after his staff had posted its 500th Truth-O-Meter rating. He told me then that it had taken time for him and his reporters to own their hard-earned authority.
“We were scared into a ‘false balance’ in the face of critics saying, ‘You guys are biased,'” Adair said. “It took us a while to find our voice and realize that once you have solid reporting, you should draw conclusions. It’s taken us a while to be courageous enough to say, ‘Facts are facts, and this candidate is wrong.'”
Last week, Tampa Bay Times Editor Neil Brown responded to recent criticism of PolitiFact with an op-ed, titled “You can handle the truth.”
“Today there is more fact-check journalism under way than ever before,” he wrote. “Reporters at Factcheck.org (one of the earliest and most credible initiatives), the Washington Post Fact Checker and other newsrooms are diving deep into the claims of politicians, asking the most basic question: Is it true?
“Why would there be a backlash against that? It’s all about power.”
He’s got that exactly right.
The only thing I’d add is that fact checkers, such as PolitiFact, can change the electoral equation — with your help.
Armed with the truth, the most powerful person in any campaign is you, the voter.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.