Poligraft as a resource for journalists

14 Mar

Poligraft makes fact checking simple. It literally takes two seconds to copy the url of a story you are reading on the web and run it through Poligraft to generate a report. It is a great resource because in a matter of seconds, it delivers background research and underlying connections you might have otherwise not known about. The site brings to light possible hidden connections that could highlight biases in a story that seems unbiased on the surface. This is a useful tool for anyone, but especially journalists. Journalists could use it to expose biases in a series of stories, to run their own stories through before publication, and even to check stories they are using as sources for their own work. This tool unmasks stories and strips them down to the real facts. With the extra information, readers can make a more informed conclusion from the story.

I ran a story from Yahoo! News through Poligraft to see if there were any underlying connections. The story was about whether President Obama should accept Sarah Palin’s invitation to a debate. Palin challenged Obama to a debate after the Obama campaign posted an online fundraising video portraying Palin in a negative light. The video accused her of “race-baiting” by criticizing Obama’s relationship with Derrick Bell, Harvard’s first black law professor. Basically, the article addresses both views and includes sources defending each side of the issue.

The Poligraft report is helpful because it uncovers deeper connections and motives that the people or organizations referenced in the story might posses. This helps readers to understand the broader picture. The report for this story showed points of influence for Sarah Palin, Yahoo! Inc, Charles W Johnson, Facebook Inc, and Harvard University. The report shows that Sarah Palin mainly receives contributions from individuals instead of PACs. This tells us that she doesn’t seem to receive money from one dominating company that could influence her views.  Charles W Johnson, who is interviewed in the story and defends Obama, is an Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington. With this information, gained from reading the Poligraft report, we can see a bigger picture. Perhaps he feels a sense of loyalty to Obama because he currently works under him. Also, in looking deeper into the report, we learn most of his campaign finances are received from lawyers. Palin was attacking Obama and his relationship with a prominent law professor. The fact that he seems to have a good relationship with lawyers and receives substantial money from them could weigh into Johnson’s opinion on the whole situation. The report just gives us more food for thought. Also, in reading this story, it is helpful that the report lets us know that Yahoo! Inc, Facebook Inc, and Harvard University are all mostly Democrat and not Republican. This helps us realize the political connections and detect potential biases. While the article is not biased because it shows both sides, it gives more space to the side that defends Obama, a Democrat. And Yahoo! is mostly Democrat. Is there a connection? Is this article actually unbiased? That is why Poligraft is such a great tool. It allows readers to unveil stories and decide for themselves if they are true and unbiased.

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