The Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism, has acquired direct ownership of the Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact.com from its founding entity, the Tampa Bay Times.
The move adds staff and resources to the Institute as a leading advocate, convener and trainer of fact-checkers worldwide, Poynter says.
Though Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper — which created the PolitiFact initiative in 2007 –the formal acquisition and relocation, Poynter says will allow it to expand its fact-check training and leadership in best practices, and to be engaged in the real time journalism that it teaches.
For PolitiFact, the move to Poynter allows it to function as a not-for-profit national news organization, much like Pro-Publica and the Center for Public Integrity. Being at Poynter gives PolitiFact an even greater national profile and a structure to more easily pursue donations, membership and foundation funding.
Poynter is already home to the International Fact Checking Network, which launched in 2015 as a forum for fact-checkers on all continents. The three-person IFCN staff monitors trends, research and best practices, with articles on a dedicated channel on poynter.org and a weekly newsletter co-edited with the American Press Institute. The IFCN produced a code of principles for fact-checking; 46 organizations (including PolitiFact) are currently verified signatories of the IFCN’s code, which is a minimum condition for being accepted as a third-party fact-checker by Facebook.
“Reliable and independent fact-based journalism is a cornerstone of democracy, and our aim at Poynter is to elevate that work and be a champion of it,” Poynter president Neil Brown says. “By formally adding PolitiFact to our portfolio alongside the International Fact Checking Network, we expand Poynter’s training capacity, its involvement in the craft, and its role as a center that not only promotes fact-checking but is a resource for journalists in the U.S. and worldwide who are trying to expand the form, or are under attack for their efforts.”
PolitiFact is the U.S. largest full-time fact-checking website and currently has partnerships with newsrooms in 14 states. It has published more than 14,000 fact-checks on its Truth-O-Meter, which rates claims on a scale from True to Pants-on-Fire false.
In 2017, PolitiFact created the Truth Squad, a membership program, which has over 1,500 members. The fact-checking site also publishes stories as part of “PunditFact” — an effort to fact-check the statements made by TV, digital, and print commentators. PolitiFact won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2009.
In addition to growing the staff at Poynter’s Florida campus, the move establishes a Poynter office in Washington D.C., where five of the team’s nine full-time staff members are based.
Poynter and PolitiFact have a history of collaboration and have worked together to secure grant funding. “Having PolitiFact join the non-profit arm of the organization makes perfect sense as we see steady interest from foundations and others seeking opportunities to support fact-checking,” said Wendy Wallace, Poynter’s director of advancement.
“PolitiFact was created in the newsroom of the Tampa Bay Times in 2007 with hopes that it would last six months through the Florida presidential primary. The success is truly remarkable, and this move to Poynter positions PolitiFact for its next stage of growth,” Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact’s executive director says.