Pants on Fire! Bill Adair of PolitiFact on Feb. 2

pants-on-fireBill Adair, founder of PolitiFact, spoke on the future and relevance of fact-checking at MTSU on Thursday, Feb. 2.

The event, at 11:20 a.m. in the Parliamentary Room at the Student Union Building, was part of the Pulitzer Prize Series sponsored by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies and the College of Media and Entertainment.

PolitiFact won a Pulitzer in 2009 in National Reporting for “its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.”

Bill Adair. Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography.

Bill Adair. Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography.

Adair explained the idea behind the website’s rating system, which is based on the “Truth-o-Meter,” which ranges from six stages, beginning with “truth” and ending with “Pants on Fire” once a claim is proven completely false.

“My philosophy in presenting fact checking is to do it in an accessible way,” he said. “The Truth-o-Meter is a simple way of summarizing in-depth journalism.”

He praised the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) for encouraging the fact-checking website idea 10 years ago in 2007.

“PolitiFact succeeded because the culture of the Tampa Times encourages risk-taking,” he said. “Too much journalism is long and boring. It is important to embrace commitment and creativity.”

Adair, who also is Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism & Public Policy and the director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University, recently said that fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact and continue to have record traffic and reached new levels of prominence during this year’s presidential campaign. However, he said fact-checkers were slow to recognize the “onslaught of fake news” and predicts that 2017 will be “the year of the fact-checking bot.”


Adair at the First Amendment Center

Adair also spoke on the future and relevance of fact-checking on the same day at 6 p.m. at the John Seigenthaler Center on the Vanderbilt University campus, the first in a series of lectures honoring the center’s founder John Seigenthaler. Adair’s appearance launched the Seigenthaler Series, programs presented by the First Amendment Center of the Newseum Institute to explore emerging issues involving the media and our most fundamental freedoms.

The First Amendment Center’s Nashville operations are housed in the Seigenthaler Center, at 1207 18th Ave. S., Nashville. The Center is part of the Newseum Institute – the programs and issues partner of the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  For more information about the Institute and about the Newseum, visit

For more information on Politifact, click here.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Events, News

%d bloggers like this: