Yesterday, it was announced that the Pulitzer Prize–winning PolitiFact website, home to the Truth-o-Meter, was spun off from the Tampa Bay Times, a for-profit subsidiary of the nonprofit Poynter Institute, to become an independent division within Poynter.
Amy Hollyfield writes in the Tampa Bay Times, “This move will allow PolitiFact to function fully as a not-for-profit national news organization, putting it more squarely on footing with other nonprofit newsrooms like ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity. PolitiFact’s eight staffers become employees of the Poynter Institute, which is also home to the International Fact-Checking Network.”
As Hollyfield notes, PolitiFact is a nationally recognized news service, which won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2009 for its use of “probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.”
PolitiFact was organized as a way to help cover the 2007 presidential primary. Its projected lifespan was six months, but here it is, more than ten years later, poised for its next stage of growth. The move isn’t so big—Poynter also owns the Times—but it does position the effort more centrally as a national nonprofit journalism resource, which may be beneficial both to its fundraising and its collaboration model.
For its part, the Poynter Institute is a resource for journalists and home to the two-year-old International Fact Checking Network, which has produced a code of principles for fact-checking—a code that PolitiFact and 45 other entities have adopted.
“Reliable and independent fact-based journalism is a cornerstone of democracy, and our aim at Poynter is to elevate that work and be a champion of it,” Poynter president Neil Brown said. “By formally adding PolitiFact to our portfolio alongside the International Fact Checking Network, we expand Poynter’s training capacity, its involvement in the craft, and its role as a center that not only promotes fact-checking but is a resource for journalists in the US and worldwide who are trying to expand the form, or are under attack for their efforts.”
PolitiFact is the country’s largest full-time fact-checking website and currently has partnerships with newsrooms in 14 states. It has published more than 14,000 fact-checks on its Truth-O-Meter, which rates claims on a scale from True to Pants-on-Fire false. In 2017, PolitiFact created the Truth Squad, a membership program, which has over 1,500 members. The fact-checking site also publishes stories as part of “PunditFact”—an effort to fact-check the statements made by TV, digital, and print commentators.
For those of you who appreciate the sometimes fascinating flow of organizational forms, this is an interesting story of organizing to support internal and field-wide evolutionary innovation.—Ruth McCambridge