Whitehall-Coplay Press

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Another View Learning how to discern the whole truth

Thursday, November 1, 2012 by The Press in Opinion

I don't know about you, but the amount of information presented during the presidential and vice presidential debates this year sometimes left my head spinning.

While I found it easy, as each debate has concluded, to determine which candidate had presented himself most admirably, knowing how to interpret the purported "facts" presented was a challenge with which I needed some help.

The candidates spent weeks preparing for these debates, carefully crafting ways of presenting their viewpoints that would read well to their target audiences.

Is it possible for the typical young voter, single mom, middle class couple, small business owner or senior citizen watching on TV to read between the lines, interpret the quoted statistics and understand the impact the election of one or the other candidate would have on their lives?

Political analysts on TV and the Internet are all too ready to help me to interpret statements made by the candidates, but first I have to sort out which "news" show will present a conservative or liberal viewpoint, as it's hard to find one that's completely objective anymore.

How, exactly, are we to separate the rhetoric from the truth?

I don't think, for most of us, it can be done during a 90-minute debate, much less based on political commercials or the colorful statements edited from video of stump speeches we see on the evening news.

I have found it helpful to do some thoughtful research of my own on the Internet.

While there's plenty of thoroughly biased information to be found on the Web, there are also fact-checking sources where you can follow up on candidate claims.

Then it's up to you to decide whose viewpoint may be closer to the truth.

If you find a site that seems to want to tell you that they are the one-stop source of the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I would be suspicious that there is a bias in their interpretation of the facts, and move on.

But there are some sites that seem to make an honest effort to be equally critical of candidates on both sides of the aisle when it is called for.

Spending some time checking for accuracy, I can listen to a number of viewpoints and decide for myself.

One of the sites I have visited is PolitiFact.com, a site that won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for the fact-checking work it did during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Another is FactCheck.org, nonprofit website that describes itself as a consumer advocate for voters. It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.

I recommend looking at more than one site and evaluating their work with an understanding of who is funding that site.

Hearing more than one interpretation of the facts allows you to make up your own mind.

As I see it, a good fact-checking website should not attempt to agree or disagree with the world view or principles of a political party, but rather should tell whether statements made by a candidate can be backed up with historical or statistical accuracy.

It should report the inflation rate, unemployment statistics, a Senate vote or a candidate's previously stated viewpoints, for example and, for the most part, let you be the interpreter of those facts.

In using these resources, I can think at my own pace, chew on more than a sound bite, so to speak, and make a more informed decision about my choice of national leadership.

I recommend it as a way to bring more clarity for voters during this presidential election season.

There's not a lot of time left, though.

Nov. 6 will be here before you know it.

Linda Wojciechowski

associate editor

Catasauqua Press