Jon Z. Greenberg is a Senior Correspondent at PolitiFact, a not-for-profit news organization that seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases. We discuss who gets fact-checked, how it works, and why speaking truth to power is one of the most important things we can do.
Who Gets Fact-Checked?
PolitiFact finds statements of “fact” by American politicians that can be verified and are highly visible, or pertinent, to a current national conversation. This is the reason why high-ranking officials, such as Members of Congress, Senators, Cabinet members, and the President are at the top of the list. The President gets checked a lot—and fails nearly 70% of the time!
The Fact-Checking Process
PolitiFact looks for evidence to support that a statement is accurate or less than entirely accurate: scouring independently verifiable information from sources like the Bureaus of Labor Statistics or Economic Analysis; turning to experts in a given field; and also asking the person who made the statement to provide whatever information they used. Once all of the facts have been checked, the rating of the statement is determined on the Truth-O-Meter. It has six ratings in decreasing levels of truthfulness from true to pants on fire.
Speaking Truth to Power
PolitiFact’s reason to publish is to give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy. One of the most rewarding ways PolitiFact sees its work in action and check power is in the White House Press Room. Often reporters will confront the President or the White House Press Secretary with PolitiFact analysis. Challenging a person in power with the facts is an essential way to get the truth out and keep America more honest at the highest levels.
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Jon Greenberg is a senior correspondent with PolitiFact. He was part of the PolitiFact team during the 2012 presidential election and was one of the fact-checkers who launched PunditFact in 2013. Prior to that, he was executive editor at New Hampshire Public Radio and a Washington reporter for National Public Radio. He has twice won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting.
You can follow him on Twitter @JonZGreenberg.