Our Democracy Un-Spun! #3 - Check Your Facts!!

It happens a lot during election years - a candidate confidently makes a statement of apparent fact and you wonder, “Can that possibly be true? What’s he or she basing that on?” Later, media pundits enter the fray, asserting or denying the claim’s validity with equal vehemence, muddying the water even more. What’s a conscientious voter to do?

It’s times like these when an on-call investigative journalist would come in handy to shed light on the issue before time and tide leave it behind and unresolved.

This week, we’re highlighting a few websites that assess the validity of statements made by politicians and pundits throughout the 2012 election season. Criteria for inclusion includes that the site be the product of an authoritative, reputable source, that it self-identifies as non-partisan, and that it provides full financial and author disclosure. Needless to say, the fact checkers have their own watchdogs - journalists critical of, among other things, sites’ claims to arbitrate truth, as well as potential partisan leanings. Links to a few critiques can be found below. Of course, you can always contact a reference librarian for the scoop as well.


Some Fact Checkers on the Web


“We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases…" FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.


Another project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, this is “a one-stop guide to fact-checking of speeches and debates in the presidential race.” Topics covered include candidate records, historical facts, and current issues.


“PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter…”


Checking Up on the Fact Checkers

Not everyone gives these and other fact-checking sites high marks for nonpartisanship, and several journalists have studied the issue. Here are links to two articles:

Political Fact-Checking Under Fire

Neal Conan talks with Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, broadcast January 10, 2012 on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation. (Both audio and print versions are available.)

Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact Checking’: The Liberal Media’s Latest Attempt to Control the Discourse
Journalist Mark Hemingway’s critique of fact-checking organizations, published December 19, 2011 in The Weekly Standard.

The Biggest Pinocchios of 2011
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, and Fact Checker blogger responds to Mark Hemingway.
Note: Kessler’s Fact Checker was not included among our suggested sites because it does not currently self-identify as non-partisan or provide financial and author disclosure.

You'll find more essentials for elections here. And if you have questions or want assistance finding reliable information on this or any topic, contact our Reference Services Department on Level 3 of the Central Library, phone 720-865-1363, or email a reference question.

Next time we'll talk about money in politics.

Written by Elaine on September 5, 2012

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