Fairness Checking

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 23 2012 @ 5:41pm

The Line of Attack feature at the Las Vegas Sun seeks to keep politicians honest. Jay Jones explains how it differs from similar projects:

[T]he Sun’s feature doesn’t use the standard lingo of the factchecking industry, which generally tries to sort out true and false claims, and labels the most outrageous assertions as lies, if only idiomatically. (The Post’s Glenn Kessler awards "Pinocchios"; PolitiFact’s lowest rating is "Pants on Fire.") Instead, the Sun’s approach evaluates an attack’s fairness: each item concludes with a "fairness meter," and the headline of many installments asks "Is it fair…?" In keeping with that approach, Damon and her team of political writers assign each attack they evaluate a rating on the following scale: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable, and Outrageous.

As a result, the paper’s approach may sidestep an issue that many critics, including some at CJR, have raised about the factcheckers—the difficulty they face in pushing back at political rhetoric that’s irresponsible or unfounded, but not demonstrably false.