Changes to Michigan Truth Squad

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

The Michigan Truth Squad has helped keep state political campaigns honest through scrupulous fact checking.

With the 2014 election season heating up this summer, attacks on candidates are sure to increase through an ever-expanding universe of social media outlets and an ever-narrowing focus on individual voters. As you surely have noticed, advertising in high-profile races by wealthy outside organizations has already saturated much of the state, more than five months before the November elections (See Peters, Gary and Land, Terri Lynn).

Even as political strategies and attacks grow more sophisticated, Truth Squad is simplifying its watchdog approach. Starting today, Truth Squad is streamlining the standards we use to assess the accuracy of messaging in state political races. The changes include:

  • Narrowing the categories of calls. Under our past system, a Truth Squad call went from a Flagrant Foul (the worst), to a Regular Foul, Technical Foul, Warning and No Foul. Today, we drop the Technical Foul, as it’s too often confused with a Flagrant Foul among political junkies who are also basketball junkies.
  • Tightening fact-checking descriptions so that, for instance, outright whoppers are more reliably assigned as Flagrant Fouls, with subsequent categories reflecting descending degrees of obfuscation and spin.
  • Recognizing the increasingly outsized role third-party organizations play in political campaigns. The old Truth Squad standards spoke in terms of ads or statements by public officials. The new system acknowledges a larger, more fluid political ecosystem.

You can see the new, streamlined categories below.

As always, we welcome your feedback. We also urge you to send tips on political messaging of all stripes that Truth Squad should address in the 2014 Michigan political season. We do our best when we are receiving important leads and information from Bridge readers.

David Zeman
Bridge Magazine

Flagrant foul

A false statement about a candidate’s position or a fact involving policy. It's one thing to point out differences between records. It's another for a candidate or third-party group to present false information or inaccurately portray a candidate’s political record.

Regular Foul

A statement that distorts a candidate’s record or a fact involving policy, or which omits a fact that is essential to understanding a candidate’s position.


A statement that may be generally truthful, but lacks context and could easily mislead or be misconstrued.

No foul

A statement, however strident, that is based on accurate facts.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Mike R
Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:53am
Nice improvements, Mr. Zeman; keep up the excellent work!
Thu, 06/12/2014 - 12:35am
This is a well thought out index with timing limitations which demishes campaign relavance. As an example there can be many erroneous campaign ads made at this stage of the campaign that are lost from the public memory with time. In effect the early errors can create a mindset that can be hidden by later accurate ads. The credibililty of the ad providers can be manipulated with the current Truth Squad system. Early frequent Flagrant Foul by an advertiser are forgetten late in the camnpaign and yet they can frame the candidate or an issue. If the Truth Squad added a number to each ad rating and then plotted the ratings either as a running chart or an accumlative score for each advertiser then the public would have a creditility rating for the advertiser rather then just a spot rating of individual ads. An advertiser would become part of the public knowledge on par with the ads they provide. This would allow the public to be better informed and better able to weight what is siad and by whom. In point of fact a weighting could be added that would be a more effective aid to the voters.
Sun, 06/15/2014 - 9:30pm
Who are the members of the "Truth Squad"? What is their employment background and educational experience? Are they paid or volunteers?
Tue, 06/24/2014 - 3:52pm
With a simple click of the upper tab button "about-us", I am sure you will be well infomed of the educational backround of the journalist and their comprehesive reporting, fair and balaced articles. I have found it a great benifit as I struggle to make sence of it all. Please take a look