Politifact Moves to Poynter

Politifact, the fact-checking website home to the infamous ‘Pants on Fire’ rating, has moved from The Tampa Bay Times to The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, according to a press release this week.

Poynter owns The Tampa Bay Times, so the transfer of ownership changes little functionally, and instead signals Politifact’s increased focus on national and international stories.

“I don’t expect any changes to the way PolitiFact does its work on a daily basis. Our fact-checking methods are well established, and we’ll keep to the publication schedule we have in the past,” said Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of Politifact, in an interview with MediaFile.

The reorganization allows Politifact to become non-profit and more closely integrate with the International Fact Checking Network, a global consortium of fact checkers.

Sherri Day, communications director for The Tampa Bay Times, declined to comment.

Politifacts journalists will continue working out of St. Petersburg, FL and Washington, D.C., but the move to Poynter led to two new hires. According to Holan, a new journalist has started working on PunditFact – a new project to fact-check TV pundits – while another is working on social media outreach.

Audience numbers shared with MediaFile reveal that the website gets over 4.7 million unique active users a month.  

“We are on an upward trajectory, and we’re ahead of where we were when compared with the 2014 midterms,” said Holan.

As part of this growth, Politifact has started a Truth Squad program and a guest political analyst column.

Holan described the Truth Squad as “a membership program similar to public radio. People who are interested in supporting us send us contributions, and we offer them perks and extra outreach. The Truth Squad is for people who support fact-checking and want to see PolitiFact expand its reach.”

With the move to reorganize under Poynter, Truth Squad donations become tax-deductible. According to Politifact, the Truth Squad raised over $200,000 last year.

Additionally, earlier this month Politifact introduced former Reps. David Jolly (R-FL) and Alan Grayson (D-FL) as guest columnists. These two voices were going to write columns for Politifact and provide their analysis on ratings.

However, Politifact received strong backlash on Twitter from journalists for its selection of Grayson. Led by Politico Playbook’s Jake Sherman, many believed Grayson was unfit to work at Politifact due to his previous personal conduct towards journalists.

Grayson was fired by Politifact after revealing to the organization that he had filed paperwork to run for Congress again in 2018. He told Poynter that Politifact did not discuss the backlash from readers in its decision to fire the former Congressman.

When asked for an update, Holan pointed to a column published Feb. 9 by former Rep. Jason Altimire (D-PA).  The article, the first by a guest columnist in Politifact, offers Altimire’s analysis on Politifact’s “Half-True” rating of a Facebook post by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

Politifact’s move to Poynter, while leaving its trusted fact-checking procedure unchanged, allows it to continue to expand content in a time where fact-checking is crucial for readers to understand the news.

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