Fact-checking ads before publication is paper's objective

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate October 17, 2012 04:28 pm

Call this the fact-check that shouldn’t have been.

The Triplicate’s election season protocol calls for me to see political advertisements in advance, not to censure sentiment but to ferret out false information – before it gets into print.

Generally some rewording does the trick.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen with an ad for supervisor candidate Leslie McNamer last week. It carried this statement about her opponent:

“According to Roger Gitlin, 50 percent of Del Norte County are: ‘Moochers, leeches, and victims.’”

That’s an inaccurate reference to what Gitlin wrote in an opinion piece posted last December in the Santa Clarita Valley’s West Ranch Beacon. His actual words were:

 

“The Democrats have devolved to become the Party of moochers, leeches, and victims.”

Like much of the advertising at the state and national level these days, McNamer’s missive was a stretch: Gitlin labels the Democratic Party, almost half the registered voters in Del Norte are Democrats, therefore he is said to have directly put that label on “50 percent of Del Norte County.”

For the record, according to the latest figures from the county Elections Office, about 35 percent of Del Norte voters are registered as Democrats. That’s 4,250 people, which is about 15 percent of the total county population.

Two mistakes were made at the Triplicate. First, I wasn’t shown the ad before it was printed Thursday. Second, after the McNamer campaign agreed to a wording change for its Saturday ad, those changes were made but due to a production mistake the original ad appeared in print.

There are plenty of media outlets that accept almost any political advertising without making any effort to verify its accuracy – that’s why there’s such a cottage industry in the “fact-checking” of claims made in these ads, after they are printed or aired. We try to do better here, but in this case we failed.

 

Before you vote, watch

Sure, you like to clear that paperwork off the counter at home as soon as possible, and that may include a ballot you already received in the mail from the county Elections Office.

But before you make your choices in the local races for Supervisor, City Council, School Board and Harbor Commission, know this: It’s never been easier to access replays of the Triplicate’s recent candidate forums on the newspaper website or on Charter Channel 4.

Videos of the Supervisor and City Council forums have already been produced. Go to triplicate.com at any time and click on “Candidate Forum Videos” beneath the headline “2012 Local Elections.” That same area, by the way, contains past Triplicate articles about the election, so it’s really one-stop shopping for voters.

Not a ’Net surfer? You can also see the Supervisor and City Council forums on Charter Channel 4 on Tuesdays (including tonight), Thursdays and Saturdays, starting at 6 p.m. and running until a little past 8.

Coming soon: Videos of the School Board and Harbor Commission forums.

Let those mail ballots clutter up your counters just a little longer, okay?