Category Archives: Digital

Bots & Ballots podcast

I was pretty sick with near laryngitis when I recorded this podcast last month for Bots & Ballots. But I’m glad I did it because I thought it was an interesting conversation. This is what I said is the problem with politicians saying things that aren’t true: “It distracts the conversation from reality and addressing real problems in a constructive way. That’s a huge part of the negative consequences of political lying — you never get to the real issues because you’re too busy trying to establish what’s actually real.”

Listen to the podcast or read a Yahoo News summary.

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 …

C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal’ and tracking President Barack Obama’s campaign promises

On C-SPAN, I recently talked about PolitiFact’s Obameter project, which tracks President Barack Obama’s campaign promises.

Fact-checking fake news on Facebook

PolitiFact recently announced it would join with other independent fact-checkers to fact-check fake news on Facebook. (Read PolitiFact’s announcement.) I talked about that initiative with Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

Scrolling on an iPhone causes motion sickness?

The scrolling on my iPhone Safari browser gives me motion sickness. It’s that same feeling I had as a child being carsick on long car rides. Even today I get queasy sometimes if I try to read in the car or if I sit on the D.C. metro going backwards. I’ve tried adjusting the motion settings on my phone to see if it would help, but it hasn’t. It’s something about scrolling and reading that is affecting me, because I don’t get the feeling at all on my Kindle, which turns pages rather than scrolling.

I’ve done some intensive searching on the Internet about this experience to see if anyone else has had it, and I’ve come up with nothing. I’m very interested in hearing about others’ experience or any studies of this phenomenon. My iPhone is a big part of my life and it’s not pleasant to feel ill while reading on it. If there’s a solution to this problem, I’d certainly like to find it.

Annotating the State of the Union and responses

It warmed my librarians’ heart that PolitiFact’s first Kickstarter included annotating political rhetoric. My own definition of annotation is adding a note to an existing work to perform one or more of the following tasks:

  1.  explain the factual origins of the statement;
  2. provide additional context or analysis of the statement;
  3. comment on the statement (sometimes humorously);  or
  4. offer additional information related to the statement’s topic.

PolitiFact partnered with Genius on the project, using the Genius software that provides what I would describe as either in-line or off-set annotation. (See it here.)

I love reading endnotes in books. Robert Caro’s endnotes for his biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson come to mind as particularly marvelous. One of my favorite novels, Infinite Jest, is famous for its copious footnotes.


Washington by Instagram

This gallery contains 12 photos.

We’ve been exploring Washington D.C., mostly by bike, ever since we moved here earlier this year. I like to snap photos of the monuments on my iPhone and post them to Instagram; it’s an amateur endeavor and totally fun. Here … Continue reading


7 steps to better fact-checking

7 steps to better fact-checking

One of the things I think about a lot at PolitiFact is how to fact-check and how to improve fact-checking processes. The distillation of a lot of that thinking is in a column we posted this week, “7 steps to better fact-checking.” It’s a rundown of the how I approach research when I fact-check, and it’s heavily influenced by librarianship’s comprehensive approach to search.

Welcome to

Welcome to my new website! I’ve imported below a few select entries from my tumblr, just so you’ll have a little something to look at. More to come soon …

How a certain computer company lost me, and how they won me back

Just a few months ago, I replaced my PC with a Mac, and I’m kind of surprised that I did. Here’s my personal technology history, briefly: 

The first computer I remember seeing was around 1986 or ‘87, when my dad brought home a “portable” Compaq that was the size of small suitcase. It had an operating system called DOS. I didn’t get anything my own computer-like device until late high school, when I got a Panasonic word processor. The Panasonic took me all the way into my senior year of college, when email was just starting to become common. My first computer was an Apple LC III (Or was it II? Hard to remember).

At my first newspaper job in 1994, we wrote our stories on Macintosh Classics with those teeny tiny black and white monitors. The World Wide Web hadn’t been invented yet. When it was, around 1997, we got up from our Mac’s to use the special “Internet computer,” which was PC. (Yes, I’m serious that it was the special “Internet” station.) I still had the LC III, but my roommates had PCs that I’d use from time to time. 

In 1998, I bought my first laptop, a Macintosh Power PC. By the time 2002 rolled around, though, I wanted a newer, faster computer. But I was put off by how high the prices for new Mac’s. I’d also been having problems with sharing documents between home and work, and with files from the Internet that wouldn’t work on a Mac. So I bought a cheap, fast laptop, and I was pretty happy about it.

I stayed with PCs for 10 years. But then a bunch of little things happened that planted the seeds for an eventual return to Mac.

I’m somewhat techy, but I did need help with certain things from time to time, especially with modems and routers. Around midway through my PC run, I noticed that the customer service offered by my PC maker (Dell) was deteriorating noticeably — the reps just were not as helpful, and it was obvious they were all based overseas. Another thing: I could see that the compatibility issues for documents and other files were going away. My students (I teach as an adjunct) had Macs and were navigating those issues just fine.

I had the misfortune to buy my final PC during the terrible Vista years, and as time went on, it created many aggravations. Meanwhile, Apple was launching its iPods and iPhones, and offering more services. I also started noticing that while the price difference between Macs and PCs were still there, they were less than they had been, while Apple was offering more services and options.

This year, when it was time to buy a new computer, I was well disgusted with my PC, so much so that I was willing to pay the extra money and switch back to Mac.

I’m writing all this down here now, and it makes a coherent story. But I have to say the ACTUAL thought processes for making the switch were much less linear and much more intuitive, and not a decision-tree type of thing at all. It was more like this: PCs=aggravating, Macs=interesting. Purchase. 

Thus are the impulses on which rise and fall the fortunes of the major tech companies.