Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
With less than a month until the hugely important Election Day for federal, state and local offices, the airwaves are being clogged with commercials from campaigns, party committees, so-called "super PACs" and other outside players, and most of them are playing fast and loose with the truth.
Pointing out lies and misrepresentations is the duty of journalists, including rural journalists. You may think that you need to stick to local coverage, but you should should remember that many if not most of your audience has no easy access to daily newspapers that pick apart the ads for federal and state office -- and that there and many sources from which to glean facts and analysis about ads that are running on your local airwaves. The voters you serve deserve the best possible information, and you are the only source for many of them to get it. Please do not forsake this responsibility.
Previously, we have noted the services FactCheck.org, Politifact.com and The Washington Post's Fact Checker column, which we have found reliable, with only very rare and minor errors. In addition to fact-checking, now there is a service that can help you track the volume and sponsors of ads: Political Ad Sleuth, a searchable database of political ad buys across the nation, as well as a crowd-sourced research tool for journalists. The site has data on where presidential, congressional and issue ads are running and who is paying for them.
The site is based on online ad files from the Federal Communications Commission, which cover the top 50 media markets, plus files uploaded by volunteers in smaller markets. If you are in such a market, you can become one of those volunteers and return the favor. Learn how you can help here.
A tutorial about political ad files and the site itself is here. To contact the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which operates the site, click here.