The Arizona Daily Star fails at fact checking

ScreenshotOur sad small town newspaper the Arizona Daily Star (“All the news that Jim Click decides is fit to print”) this morning did a “fact check” of the ASUA gubernatorial debate on Sunday that the Star never reported on because Jim Click’s boy Doug Ducey did not participate in the debate. If a debate occurs in Tucson, and the Star is not around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

For regular readers of the Star you know that it does not do “fact checks,” at least not since Rhonda Bodfield left the newspaper. So this “fact check” was clearly requested by the Ducey Campaign, and maybe even by a call from the boss Jim Click after the Star did a front page story about his boy ditching the debate in Tucson. Tucson debates scrapped after GOP hopefuls opt out.

This sorry excuse for a “fact check” is nothing more than duelling statements from campaign spokesmen. DuVal’s education accusation misses the mark:

Republicans are crying foul over a claim by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal that Republican Doug Ducey wanted to move the state’s three universities to a private, for profit model.

DuVal’s charge came during a poorly attended debate at the University of Arizona on Sunday — one that Ducey opted not to participate in, so he was not there to respond.

“The notion that the missing candidate, Doug, is suggesting (is) that we could essentially move to a for-profit model. He is saying what we should try and do is privatize our universities,” DuVal said.

Like PolitiFact, the much maligned fact-check of the Tampa Bay Times, this so-called “fact check” turns on parsing a single word — did Ducey say “privatize”? — rather than the substance of his statement of moving to a for-profit model.

Geoffrey Vetter, communications director for the DuVal campaign, pointed to a July 17 article in the Arizona Republic to back up the claim made by the Democratic nominee.

It reported Ducey said at July 16 debate that there was a need for more cuts in higher education, and for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix were a “cheaper” option than “traditional colleges.”

“It’s time that the university elite started tightening their belts,” Ducey said.

But the article does not say or suggest Ducey is considering privatizing the University of Arizona, Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University.

When you do a fact check: (1) provide the exact quote, and (2) provide a link to the original source. The Star failed on both accounts.

Here is the Arizona Republic article from July 17, and the context of the Ducey quote. GOP governor candidates debate Common Core, tuition:

The public university system made its way into the conversation with a question on how to keep college affordable.

* * *

Referencing rising salaries and continued construction and expansion on college campuses, Doug Ducey said, “It’s time that the university elite started tightening their belts.” He entertained the idea that for-profits such as the University of Phoenix could provide a cheaper alternative to traditional colleges.

A fact check by The Republic in its reporting:

Studies show students at for-profit colleges are much more likely to graduate with debt as well as default on their loans. In addition, the U.S. Senate found in a 2012 investigation that for-profits with low success rates were using recruiters on military bases to attract veterans and their GI Bill dollars.

This fact is not supplied by the Star’s fact checker, but rather from the DuVal campaign:

Geoffrey Vetter is skeptical, saying Ducey is looking to cut deeper into university budgets that already have seen significant budget cuts.

He also noted that private colleges like the University of Phoenix are not a cheaper option than the state’s universities. [As did the Arizona Republic]

“When Ducey touts for-profit colleges over the University of Arizona and calls for even more cuts at the U of A, it’s clear that he’s headed towards privatizing our state universities,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we usually have to guess where Ducey stands because he won’t be honest about his plans, other than his desire to give millionaires like himself a big tax cut at the expense of our schools.”

A “fact check” is supposed to come to a conclusion, which this fact check does not. It is the Star’s notorious creative headlines editor who makes the call with a misleading headline.

Did Ducey use the “magic word” privatize? No. Did he suggest “that for-profits such as the University of Phoenix could provide a cheaper alternative to traditional colleges”? Yes he did. Is this a fiscally sound policy? No, it is not. So this fact check should be rated “mostly true” with the caveat that Ducey did not say the “magic word” privatize. It does not “miss the mark” on the context or the clear implication of Ducey’s statement.

One Response to The Arizona Daily Star fails at fact checking

  1. Patricia’s Fact check: Don’t trust republicans for improving anything to do with public education in Arizona. Look at what they’ve done, not what they say they will do.