When one of my editors at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel walked over to my desk two weeks ago and asked, “How would you like to do a Politifact?” of course I jumped at the opportunity.
But writing the thing was easier said than done — you can read it here. Politifact pieces follow a certain writing structure: First you introduce the claim that’s being examined, then provide background on it, making sure both sides give their case, then a panel of editors vote on the claim. In this case we’d originally ruled the claim “Mostly False,” but in the end editors decided the claim was all-the-way “False” because of the multiple inaccuracies in the group’s statement.
The experience made the last week of my internship a memorable one, and made me even more reluctant to have to leave. Services like Politifact are especially important these days, when news outlets are called out for their “bias” at the drop of a hat and public disillusionment is rampant. By confronting the facts on their face and evaluating the claims public figures are making, particularly during the run-up to an election, news outlets can provide readers (or viewers, or listeners) with the kind of accountability and civil service they expect. Showing your audience the process behind the reporting can strengthen their trust in ways that a regular news piece or even an editorial simply cannot.
Feedback much appreciated!