Outlet: Portland Press Herald
Date: August 7, 2012
Topic: “Truth Test” of Rubber Stamp Ads
Author: Michael Shepherd
Analysis: Truth Test Fails For Ignoring the relevance of the Forbes study & failing to investigate jobs claims.
Portland – The Portland Press Herald’s “Truth Test”i examination of the Maine Democratic party’s recently launched rubber stamps ads was flagged for M.A.P. review.
In the Truth Test article, authored by MTM staff writer Michael Shepherd, two problems quickly emerge.
1.That the Forbes studyii cited by the ad is left virtually undiscussed in the “Truth Test”, and the author allows the creators of the ad to explain it away as the Democrats using Forbes for easier searchability and to give viewers “an overall picture of Maine’s economy.”
2. That the author of the “Truth Test” failed to do any independent verification of the jobs numbers report that the Democratic party eventually provided, even though they failed to cite it in the ad, and only finally revealed its source to Shepard after the Forbes citation failed to back up the claim.
Failure Number One:
Testing the truthfulness of an ad means viewing the truthfulness of the claims, exploring any bills and studies referenced in the ad and drawing a conclusion based on the information presented and any other information available to the author. In this instance, the author completely ignored the relevance of the Forbes Best States For Business report, failed to provide even a cursory explanation of the Forbes report or even a simple link to the report and methodology.
Instead, the author glosses over the reference, giving the creators of the ad a free pass on the content of the Forbes report and never exploring it in any depth. The methodology and criteria of the Forbes Report cited by the Maine Democratic party is in fact, heavily reliant on numerous look-backs at five-years or even decades of data on jobs, the economy, education and more. It and also provides explanation for a number of reforms that could be undertaken in Maine to improve our ranking. Virtually all of these reforms have been opposed by the Maine Democratic partyiii – yet the author of this Truth Test fails to investigate this fully enough to offer readers any insight at all. This results in failure number one.
Failure Number Two:
The author allows the creators of the ads to provide a source to back up their jobs claims without seeking any additional data or reports to verify the claims. The report cited by the creators of the ads, from the Maine Center for Economic Policyiv, claims Maine lost 1,300 jobs in 2011, yet numbers from the Maine Department of Labor, available at the Official Maine Department of Labor websitev, show the following official Seasonally-Adjusted Labor Force Estimates for this same time period as:
|Month||# of Employed||# of Unemployed||Unemployment Rate|
Had the author bothered to visit the Maine Department of Labor website, certainly a reliable source for verification of employment numbers if there is one, he would have discovered that:
- Maine had an estimated 11,500 more people employed in December of 2011 compared to January of 2011.
- Maine had 6,100 fewer people unemployed in December of 2011 compared to January of 2011.
- Maine’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 8.0% in January of 2011 to 7.0% in December of 2011.
All three of these numbers completely contradict the report Shepherd rates as true.
For allowing the claims of a report provided by a source even the author identified as “liberal-leaning” in his column to stand as factual and true without so much as comparing them to official state employment statistics, then declaring that the Portland Press Herald “rates this statement true” the author of this “Truth Test” earns failure number two.