Truth Squad defends its fact-driven reporting against political attack

An organization called Progress Michigan published a blog post today questioning the integrity of Bridge Magazine’s Michigan Truth Squad political ad watchdog service.

Specifically, Progress Michigan said other media partners should “think twice” before publishing our Truth Squad calls on political ads because it “is supported by many of the same corporate special interests that have spent big money to defeat several of this year’s ballot proposals.”

The work of Bridge Magazine and the Truth Squad is, indeed, supported by numerous Michigan corporations as well as many of Michigan’s leading foundations. Those funders are clearly listed on the Bridge homepage. Many of those entitities also regularly advertise in daily newspapers and television and radio outlets.

Our goal with the Michigan Truth Squad is to provide statewide voters with clear-eyed, nonpartisan fact-checking of political ads of all types, from all corners of the partisan spectrum. Our team of independent Truth Squad journalists has many decades of combined experience covering Michigan public policy and politics. During busy political seasons like this one, we publish our fact-checking of several ads each week.

The archive of ads the Truth Squad has examined this year clearly demonstrates our willingness to take on ads from across the political spectrum. As Progress Michigan acknowledged in their blog today, “… there are often fouls called on both sides of many issues.”

We make it clear to funders that if they engage in political advertising they are fair game for the Truth Squad. If that’s not acceptable, we would respectfully return their contributions. We have declined funding from Michigan interests who indicated their motivation was to advance particular partisan interests. In those rare situations, we’ve said “no thanks” and walked away.

So we didn’t blink in the past week in calling fouls on ballot proposal advertisements that are, indeed, supported by some of the same corporate interests who support the Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine. We didn’t look at our funding. We looked at the factual claims in the ads. And we called fouls for inaccuracies.

Instead of calling for Truth Squad transparency that already exists, perhaps Progress Michigan should look in the mirror. Where is Progress Michigan’s transparent list of funders? We didn’t see it on their web site.

We expect that readers will consider for themselves the claims in political ads – that’s why we link to the online version of every ad we review. We welcome readers to weigh the factual material – that’s why we link to documentation we find in analyzing the ads.

We hope voters consider many sources of information when they go to the polls. At Michigan Truth Squad, we’re working hard to earn your trust as one of those sources.

So, please consider Progress Michigan’s criticisms as well as our response. It’s an important discussion.

Then make up your own minds – as voters always do.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Judy Putnam
Sat, 09/29/2012 - 9:17am
I've known Rick Haglund, a Truth Squad researcher, for more than two decades, as a colleague, friend and a reporter. Of course he's not perfect and I certainly don't agree with all the Truth Squad "calls" but you can't find a person with more integrity than Rick. As a child and family advocate with a progressive point of view, I often agree with Progress Michigan but not on this point. Michigan's lucky to have this watchdog service in an age of dwindling traditional media resources, even if you don't agree with all the results.
david zeman
Tue, 10/02/2012 - 2:04pm
I trust John Below's integrity.