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Global Fact V in Rome

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Fact-checkers from around the world gathered at the end of June in Rome for Global Fact V, the international fact-checking conference. It was a smashing success, with many great panels and discussions. (Read coverage of the conference events via Poynter.org.) … Continue reading

My father’s obituary

My father died recently, and I wanted to honor him by writing an obituary that captured his adventurous and rich life. With my mother’s help reminding me of key events, and my husband’s help editing, this is what I wrote:

Leo Drobnic, 76, a retired practitioner of Chinese medicine in the Austin area, died Friday, April 27.

Leo’s lifetime spanned three continents. He was born in 1941 in Milocer in the former Yugoslavia to servants of the royal family. Shortly after World War II, his parents escaped communism with Leo and his younger brother, Jose, crossing from their native Slovenia into Italy. The family spent 1948 as refugees in Italy’s displaced person camps while attempting to reach the United States. Unable to immigrate to America, the family instead traveled to Venezuela, where they opened a restaurant. Leo attended high school and some college in Caracas. When civil unrest interrupted his studies, Leo made a second attempt to reach the United States, this time successfully. He studied engineering and computer science at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

At LSU, Leo met Faye Marin of Patterson, La. They married in 1968 and had two daughters. Leo worked briefly as an engineer at McDermott Shipbuilding near Morgan City, then joined Patterson State Bank, where he worked alongside other members of the Marin family.

In 1990, Leo began a major career change. He left Louisiana to study massage therapy at the New England School of Shiatsu in Boston, Mass. After graduating, he moved to Austin and opened a professional practice. He expanded his studies into Chinese acupuncture and herbs at the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. For nearly 20 years, Leo practiced Chinese healing, working with clients around the Austin area. He retired to Creekside Villas in Buda, Texas.

Leo died of congestive heart failure and other complications. He was treated with care at Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle, Texas, and was surrounded by loved ones at his passing.

Leo is survived by his daughters, Marina Drobnic of Houston, Texas, and Angie Drobnic Holan and her husband Mark Holan of Arlington, Va.; his brother Jose Drobnic of Andover, Mass.; and his former wife Faye Drobnic of Lafayette, La.

A funeral Mass will be held 11 a.m. May 26 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Patterson, La. In lieu of flowers the family asks donations be made to the Seton Hays Foundation, 1345 Philomena St., Austin, Texas 78723; or Hospice Austin, 4107 Spicewood Springs Rd., Suite 100, Austin, TX  78759.

Book Review of ‘A Higher Loyalty’ by James Comey

I wrote a review of former FBI director James Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty” on deadline,  because we wanted to get our report up as soon as possible. I got a copy of the book on Tuesday and then read it, wrote the review and had the piece edited so it could publish on Thursday. It begins:

In 2016, as the director of the FBI, James Comey publicly dissected Hillary Clinton’s email server controversy. Later, we learned that Comey was keeping to himself the beginnings of an investigation into Russia’s active interference in the U.S. election and potential connections to the Donald Trump campaign.

It was a perplexing contradiction for someone who said he was apolitical and above the fray.

Now James Comey wants to explain himself. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership is Comey’s story of what he did and why. MORE …

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Talking about fact-checking in Germany

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I traveled to Germany recently to talk about fact-checking and U.S. politics at the German-American Institutes. Here are some photos from the trip.

PolitiFact’s fact-checking methodology

Over the years, PolitiFact has published many explanations of its fact-checking methodology, as well as the websites policies and practices. We recently published a significantly revamped version that includes many of the principles developed through the International Fact-checking Network. The IFCN’s code of principles deeply informs this version of our methodology, called “Principles of the Truth-O-Meter: PolitiFact’s methodology for independent fact-checking,” and it’s my favorite version yet when it comes to explaining how and why PolitiFact does what it does.

It starts:

Fact-checking journalism is the heart of PolitiFact. Our core principles are independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting and clear writing. The reason we publish is to give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy.

Since our launch in 2007, we’ve received many questions about how we choose facts to check, how we stay nonpartisan, how we go about fact-checking and other topics. This document attempts to answer those questions and many more. MORE …

A fact-checker’s guide to Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’

From time to time, I happily get to review books for PolitiFact. Here’s my latest, a review of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. (And here are links to more book reviews I’ve written.)

Even books about Donald Trump seem to break norms: Trump hasn’t been in office a year, and already there’s a gossipy insider account that claims to show the real goings-on of the Trump White House. Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House portrays an infighting senior team at each other’s throats, and a president too narcissistic and distracted to be capable of governing.

Is it accurate? Many details are simply wrong. Whether the larger narrative is true is a different question. …

A bigger problem with Fire and Fury, however, is that by any standard of sound journalism it has big problems with transparency and sourcing. MORE …

PolitiFact’s 2017 Lie of the Year

PolitiFact recently published its Lie of the Year for 2017. Here’s how the story begins:

A mountain of evidence points to a single fact: Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election of 2016.

In both classified and public reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered actions to interfere with the election. Those actions included the cyber-theft of private data, the placement of propaganda against particular candidates, and an overall effort to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.

Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have held open and closed door hearings to probe Russia’s actions. The congressional investigations are ongoing.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have investigated their own networks, and their executives have concluded — in some cases after initial foot-dragging — that Russia used the online platforms in attempts to influence the election.

After all this, one man keeps saying it didn’t even happen.

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,” said President Donald Trump in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in May. MORE …

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Talking about fact-checking in Brazil at Festival 3i

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Earlier in November, I was a guest speaker at Festival 3i in Rio de Janeiro, where I talked about fact-checking in a partisan environment. Here are some photos from the trip.    

PolitiFact turns 10

PolitiFact turned 10 years old in August this year, and we celebrated the anniversary with reflection and gratitude.

I wrote a column looking back at how fact-checking has become both easier and harder. The work itself — researching, reporting and publishing — is flourishing, while our political discourse has gotten meaner and more partisan. Read my thoughts here.

From left: Aaron Sharockman, Politifact’s executive director; Angie Holan, Politifact Editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair, and Tampa Bay Times Editor and Vice President Neil Brown at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (Photo by Eve Edelheit of the Tampa Bay Times)

We also held an event at the Poynter Institute where myself, founding editor Bill Adair and Tampa Bay Times executive editor Neil Brown discussed PolitiFact’s birth; we also took questions from the audience. Read a report about the event.

CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ and fact-checking President Trump

CNN’s Brian Stelter of Reliable Sources recently penned a column on the impact of fact-checking on President Donald Trump and his administration. Then Brian invited me and the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler on the show to discuss it.

I told Brian that people “are better informed than ever about what politicians say and if their statements are literally true or not,” partly thanks to specialized fact-checkers, and partly thanks to “traditional political journalists putting corrective information into their reports much more than they used to.” Read his full column and check out the Reliable Sources segment below.