BLOG: Time for the Plain Dealer to dump PolitiFact

Tom Jackson
Jun 16, 2011


It's time for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to admit that its PolitiFact feature is a waste of space. The paper should just get rid of it, and use the space on the front of its Metro section for more articles.

The latest affront to good journalism ran in today's PD, a long article criticizing a Tweet by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.

Portman Tweeted on May 17, "We're in a fiscal crisis, yet the Democrat led Senate has not passed a budget in 748 days." The paper rates this is "Half True" on its "Truth-O-Meter."

The PD article admits that the Tweet actually was true.

"We did some simple subtraction and got back to April 29, 2009 -- which was, according to the Congressional Research Service and news sources, when the Senate passed a budget resolution for fiscal 2010.

"None has passed since, so the time tally in the statements from Portman and the NRSC is accurate."

But the Tweet is partially false, anyway, because past Republican Congresses also were irresponsible, the PD article claims.

It's true that Republicans have not been responsible with money when they held power, so their criticisms seem hypocritical. Political hypocrisy, however, doesn't morph Portman's statement and make it false. To pick to another issue, it may be hypocritical for Republicans to say that President Obama is violating the War Powers Act -- there's no evidence they cared when a Republican was in the White House -- but it doesn't make the criticisms false. The statements have to stand or fall on their own merits.

If the PD won't drop PolitiFact, it should reform it by providing accountability and transparency to its decisions.

Right now, it's impossible to tell who's to blame for the worst articles. Thursday's article is bylined "Tom Feran," but an editor's note at the end of the article says that a "panel of editors" makes the decisions on whether a politician's statement is truthful. The editors aren't named.

The PD ought to consider assigning PolitiFact articles to a reporter, and letting him or her take sole credit (or blame) for the result. The articles can only improve if the reporter has to stand by his words, instead of saying, "The editors made me do it."

If the PD insists on using a panel of editors, it should name them. Who are these mysterious philosopher-editors, who meet behind closed doors and decide that a truthful statement is only "half true"? Publish their names. Better yet, publish how they voted on a particular ruling. Was the Portman ruling unanimous, or did some of the editors dissent?

My previous criticism of PolitiFact and the PD (when they beat up on a Democratic politician, even more egregiously) is here.




That's rich when your article on wasted newspaper space is four stories down from the "Blotter item of the Day" garbage.

real talk

If there is something that should be cut from an Ohio newspaper it is your position working for one.

Erie County Resident

You pick on the Cleveland PD twice because they publish a liberal view section as being factual. To start with who are you (SR) to tell another paper what to print? Remember the 1st Amendment?

Tom what I've seen here in your blog is also very liberally skewed. Now correct me if I'm wrong but not once did you insist the most unfactual liberal bs ever published in this paper from Rufus the Dufus be removed from the paper.

Trust me I'm glad this POS does not write in here anymore as he is one of the most racist writers I've seen in a long time. And I use the term writer very loosely.

That being said when does the SR plan on having opposing viewpoint articles from the conservative side printed? After all just like the Cleveland PD you want all the facts and not just half truths here don't you?

How about it Matt a conserative viewpoint article here?

After all even a boat has left and right sides or it would sink.


At least the PD puts Kevin O'Brien up to counter Communist Connie's articles.

And I love reading the comments to his columns. Nothing brings the RAAARRR like Kevin slamming the Lefties!

brutus smith

 I see our resident racist, ecr, always comments on Blacks.

Erie County Resident

Better go back and read your heros articles bs pile. Talk about racist.

brutus your just an idiot go back to the basement.


@Erie County Resident:

You hit the nail square on the head with Rufus The Dufas, Jackson and Mattie Boy

Tom Jackson

 @Erie County Resident: I am curious why my piece defending a Republican politician inspires your comment that I am "very liberally skewed." 

Erie County Resident

It looks like a half hearted effort at best. Not once did I ever see anything from you against Rufus the liberal from you so you must have condoned his articles spewing left-wing garbage.

One thing that puzzles me is that why are you telling another newspaper what to print? They don't tell the SR what to do.

Erie Countian

How about focusing on how to improve THIS podunk newspaper instead of critiqueing a fine newspaper like the PD?!

John Kroll


You can find out who Tom Feran is by clicking on his name on the PolitiFactOhio page you linked to. There, you would have found his email address, which you could have used to ask him about whether he or any other PolitiFact Ohio reporter has ever claimed that "The editors made me do it."

You can also click on the link for Robert Higgs, who's listed as the editor of the story. Had you done that, you would also have found the link to email Higgs, who's the PolitiFact Ohio editor overall. He could have told you that we have identified the others who double-check each reporter's scoring. Here's the explanation from a story by our Reader Representative:

When a reporter is finished researching and writing a PolitiFact story, he or she assigns a Truth-O-Meter value to it, which can be one of six judgments from "True" (something that checked out in every detail) to "Pants on Fire" (a statement found to be simply ridiculous).

But that's not where it ends. A panel of three veteran editors fact-checks the fact-checker, reviewing the story and the Truth-O-Meter assessment. They make the final call, overruling the reporter if they see fit. They are Metro Editor Chris Quinn, who oversees the Metro operation; Mark Vosburgh, who is in charge of the politics reporters; and Jane Kahoun, the editor for the Columbus and Washington, D.C., bureau reporters.

Thanks for reading The Plain Dealer,

John Kroll

Director of Training and Digital Development

The Plain Dealer


Ahhh, thanks for the Sunday morning funny bone tickle, Mr. Kroll! I love that you took the time to respond to this, although there was nothing to defend on PD's part. My belly laugh came with the sentence "Thanks for reading the Plain Dealer"! I am glad I didn't have a mouthful of coffee when I read that...I would have been frantically cleaning coffee off my computer screen :-)

Tweety Sees Eve...

I am surprised that John Knoll's comments have not been removed yet.

After all, the SandPaper is the best paper in the universe! 3,000,000 years running...(ok, so I am exagerating a little)

I am curious as to if the SandPaper is going to respond to this??


Oh yeah...fix your own house before criticizing others, SandPaper!

Captain Gutz

It's great that Mr. Kroll took the time to write a lengthly post addressing some of Mr. Jacksons concerns. Too bad Mr. Kroll didn't address the main point of the article.

Tom Jackson

 @ John Kroll

Thanks for reading, and kudos for posting under your own name.

As Will Rogers said, "All I know is what I read in the papers."

I am a paid subscriber to the paper in question, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. As I mentioned in the blog post, the newspaper states without ambiguity that a "panel of editors" supply the ratings. ("A panel of editors rates PolitiFact Ohio stories on the Truth-O-Meter and Flip-O-Meter and campaign promises from Gov. John Kasich on the Kasch-O-Meter.") The editors aren't named.




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It's great that Mr. Kroll took the time to write a lengthly post addressing some of Mr. Jacksons concerns. Too bad Mr. Kroll didn't address the main point of the article.

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