CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In this political time marked by claims of “fake news,” fact-checking website PolitiFact is expanding its efforts, which includes checking statements made by West Virginia politicians and campaigns during the early stages of the 2018 midterm election.
PolitiFact announced last week it will begin to keep watch over political figures, advertisements and interest groups in the state, as well as Alabama and Oklahoma. The arrival of the nonpartisan organization and its Truth-O-Meter comes as the 2018 U.S. Senate race builds up, with Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey running for the Republican nomination as well as the opportunity to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin next year.
Organization deputy editor Katie Sanders said following the 2016 presidential campaign, they noticed a trend among conservatives regarding a distrust of news organizations.
“We are concerned about that because we are independent, we’re nonpartisan, we call out both sides, yet there’s still this skepticism,” she said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Sanders and the PolitiFact team spent last week talking to Republicans in Morgantown, as well as taking part in a forum hosted in part by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, who is partnering with the organization.
“Even though we might physically leave town, we’re going to continue to keep tabs on what’s going on and what we hear from people about what we should be fact-checking,” she added.
PolitiFact is also partnering with newspapers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Mobile, Alabama.
Sanders said there is a process to go through for when a political claim is made, which includes asking the source of the argument for their supporting evidence. Staff members then do their own research, even getting in touch with topic experts.
“We don’t want to persuade voters to vote a certain way,” she said. “That’s not our issue or our purpose at all. We just to give them as much information as possible.”
Sanders added they will also be looking at local issues to provide the public with a better understanding of issues facing their communities.
“We want to be a resource for voters,” she said.
PolitiFact’s work will continue through May 2018; May 8, 2018, is the date of next year’s primary election.