Civitas has now had a couple of articles fact-checked by Politifact North Carolina. We even have our own file and it buttresses our truth-telling record. One fact was deemed “true” and another “mostly true.” We were recently fact-checked for a number we offered for students who are on the school choice waiting list in this piece.
We had a great response to the “mostly true” rating on Twitter. Plus, it’s a little hard to pinpoint the exact number on waiting lists for school choice, and one could slightly quibble around the edges, but we are extremely confident in our accuracy. In short, we stand by the 60,000 number and believe it is likely an underestimate if anything. The point of this post is not to nitpick or squabble with Politifact NC but to highlight a few important thoughts about media fact-checking and the role of journalism, or what Edmund Burke called the “Fourth Estate.”
We often hear about political approval ratings for politicians but the media has fairly low levels of trust too. Politifact has fact-checked that as well. Their popularity or levels of trust has improved since 2016 but only 21 percent of Republicans are trusting of the “mass media.”
One of the worst fact-checks from this week came from NPR concerning Trump’s accurate claim that more women are serving in Congress than ever before. The editorializing in this fact-check takes a weird turn and implies Trump meant to mislead the public on the claim, that he somehow credited Republicans and not Democrats for this transformation. There is no evidence of that in the speech and to me, it’s clear he is looking at and signaling Democrats through the exchange. This post from RedState does a good job of explaining the silliness and offers up some brief commentary on problems with fact-checking. Much of the problem stems from editorializing after a fact is rated. The nuance of some fact-claims are navigated well, others not so much. Here is a lot more from David Harsanyi at the Federalist.
At any rate, we welcome fact-checking of Civitas articles and publications. We have a rigorous and robust editorial process and take pride in our accuracy. On the heels of the Washington Post Super Bowl ad about the importance of the media, there has been additional discussion and emphasis on the need for truth-telling and transparency in a democracy. I completely agree. I’ve worked in the media on the reporting and opinion side and understand the need for a professional media steeped in high ethical standards and accuracy. Unfortunately, I think many in the media, certainly not all, have abandoned that effort in favor of more politicized goals. One clear problem, whether you like or despise Trump, is watching many in the media continually toss aside any form of objectivity in an effort to discredit the president, thereby causing great harm to the entire “watchdog” and transparency process in itself.
This country needs a fair, independent, and free press to combat the many falsehoods we are inundated with every day, from both sides. Even if we find disagreement with some in the media, we should thank them for their work and some of the great content they produce for our state and nation.
I think this is an overall conversation Brooke and I will amp up even more on Civitalk podcast in the coming weeks. It’s too important not to address. We will work on making sure to get a professional fact checker for an interview as well to talk about the essential role the professional journalists play in a free society and see if media members have identified areas for improvements in the fact-checking process. It is undeniable that where there is an absence of truth freedom suffers.