Politifact takes statements by politicians and pundits, creator and editor Bill Adair explained, and investigates whether they are true or false. Each statement is given a rating, from ‘true’ to ‘pants on fire, and this is displayed on a ‘Truth-O-Meter’ at the start of each story.
Part of the role of the Truth-O-Meter is that it provides an easily-accessible summary of the conclusion of the fact-checking process, so that even if people don’t want to read the whole story, they will still be able to tell if a statement was true or not. “I am always amazed by the people in journalism who believe that everyone should read every long article,” Adair said.
The most important question when deciding which statements to fact check is “would your average reader look at that and wonder – is it true?” The second is, is it verifiable? By its very nature, fact-checking is about checking facts, not opinions and predictions. If there is clearly going to be a lack of consensus, Politifact will publish an article but won’t necessarily do a fact-check.
Politifact now partners with papers in ten states across the US. “This is radically different journalism,” Adair said. “You are saying that the President of the United States made a false statement.” With this in mind, he has laid out the essentials of the fact-checking process: