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PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that examines the statements made by American political figures and pundits. It is run by the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times).

PolitiFact was launched in 2007, a project of longtime political reporter Bill Adair (who left the site in 2013) and web developer Matt Waite. According to Waite, it is an attempt to break down fact-checking to an elemental, data-based level, inspired by suggestions by EveryBlock founder Adrian Holovaty.

While it offers deeply researched narrative assessments of political claims’ veracity, PolitiFact is most well-known for its six-level ranking system, which classifies claims as “true,” “mostly true,” “half true,” “barely true,” “false,” and — most famously — “pants on fire.” The site also analyzes changes in politicians’ policy stances via its flip-flop assessor: “no flip,” “half flip,” “full flop.”

PolitiFact received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for its work on the 2008 election. It has done live fact-checking on a presidential debate via Twitter, and it is tracking the status of 510 campaign promises made by President Barack Obama.

In early 2010, PolitiFact began partnering with other news organizations to create new versions of its project. It launched PolitiFact Texas with the Austin American-Statesman in January 2010 and PolitiFact Florida with the Miami Herald in March 2010. As of February 2014, PolitiFact had partnerships with 10 states, including Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Its first international partner, PolitiFact Australia, launched in May 2013. Partner news organizations pay $1,000 per month to PolitiFact for the service. It has also announced the launch of a PolitiFact News Service that allows newspapers to subscribe to its national content. As of mid-2012, it had four full-time fact-checkers at its national office, plus 36 journalists working at its state sites.

In April 2010, PolitiFact began working with ABC News’ “This Week” to evaluate statements of its guests each week. The site has also worked with NPR to fact-check the 2010 midterm campaigns and plans to work with Politico to fact-check 2012 campaign speeches.

In October 2013, PolitiFact announced plans to launch PunditFact, a site dedicated to fact-checking the claims of pundits, columnist, bloggers, and talk show guests. The site was initially funded by $625,000 in grants from the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund.

In light of its success, some journalism observers have pointed to PolitiFact as a modern successor to the form of traditional accountability journalism. However, it has also been criticized as giving a false veneer of authority to its occasionally questionable rulings, particularly in light of its controversial 2011 “Lie of the Year.”

PolitiFact has launched two mobile apps, one for $1.99 that had sold 24,000 copies as of August 2012 and the other for free.

A guided tour of PolitiFact:

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Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
April 15, 2016 / Tatiana Walk-Morris
From Nieman Reports: The future of political fact-checking — In awarding its Lie of the Year title to Donald Trump last December, the staff at PolitiFact had a lot of material from which to choose. During the first GOP debate on August 6 in Cleveland, Ohio, the front-runner for th...
March 9, 2016 / Joseph Lichterman
The Political TV Ad Archive is making it easier for journalists to report on campaign spots — As the campaign in New Hampshire intensified leading up to the state’s presidential primary, New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Brian Wallstin wanted to understand more about the glut of political ads that were bl...
Feb. 16, 2016 / Joshua Benton
Brain food: Here are 15 smart people talking for 5 minutes each about journalism’s future — Newsgeist is “a gathering of 150 key practitioners and thinkers from the worlds of journalism, technology, and public policy who are re-imagining the future of the news,” usually (though not always) at Arizon...
Jan. 22, 2016 / Laura Hazard Owen
A Howard project is debunking myths about African-Americans and teaching students fact-checking — In December, NewsOne, a news platform aimed at African-American audiences, published a story with the headline “Buying Black: The Lifespan of a Dollar in African-American Communities Is Six Hours.” The story ...
June 26, 2015 / Laura Hazard Owen
“Learning to write again”: A Duke team tests a new way of reporting on New York City government — When Bill Adair and his team began their first structured story a few weeks ago, it took them 40 minutes to enter a single sentence. When you consider that most of their stories will be made up of hundreds of such senten...

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Primary author: Megan Garber. Main text last updated: February 27, 2014.
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