The Truthiness Report: Fact-checking SF election ads

San Francisco election fliers 2008

In the weeks leading up to Election Day 2008, The Public Press joined with in a unique noncommercial news collaboration to fact-check the dizzying array of voter propositions on the San Francisco ballot.

The project, which was co-published on and, with segments broadcast on Crosscurrents Radio on KALW-FM, took to task the spinmeisters who flooded San Francisco neighborhoods with fliers containing truths, half-truths, and “truthiness.”

San Francisco election fliers 2008

View a sampling of dozens of fliers distributed in San Francisco to sway voters for and against propositions at our Flickr site — and mouse over the graphics to read our reporters’ commentary.

Among the facts we discovered (and highlighted using interactive Flickr images):

  • Opponents of Proposition H, which would have promoted public power and clean energy generation, misrepresented the level of authority that would have been handed over to the Board of Supervisors to approve bonds, and inflated estimates of the cost.
  • Proponents of Proposition A, which will provide funding to rebuild San Francisco General Hospital, made it seem in their ads that the hospital would have to close within five years if it wasn’t rebuilt. In fact, there were plenty of ways the deadline could be pushed back.
  • Both sides of the debate over Proposition B, which would have created an affordable housing trust fund, spun the numbers for their own purposes in discussing the impact of setting aside a portion of the city’s annual budget.

  The project was financed through an experimental collaboration with the new Knight Foundation-funded Web site, which is pioneering “crowdfunded” journalism. Seventy-four individuals donated an average of $33 each through the Web site to make the series happen. The series got favorable coverage in SF Weekly and PBS MediaShift.


The coverage:

SF election 2008 proposition fliers decoded

Nov 3 2008

Prop. D: Consensus on Pier 70?

By Bernice Yeung, Nov 3 2008

JROTC and Proposition V: Lessons in How Not to Listen

By Tim Kingston, Oct 31 2008

Prop. A: The Specter of a City Without a Lifeline

By Matthew Hirsch, Oct 31 2008

Prop. M: The Latest Battle in San Francisco’s Rent Wars

By Tim Kingston, Oct 31 2008

Prop. L: Political Maneuvering on Community Justice Center

By Bernice Yeung,Oct 28 2008

Brass Tax: Propositions N and Q Levy Businesses, Property

By Tim Kingston, Oct 23 2008

Prop. K: Untested Theories Drive Prostitution Debate

By Bernice Yeung, Oct 20 2008

Prop. H: Energy Measure Spurs Conflicting Claims

By L.A. Chung, Oct 16 2008

The Business of Ballot Booklet Brokering

Campaigner and ex-City Hall aide David Noyola in an insider with election impact

By Matthew Hirsch, Sep 30 2008

San Francisco Voter Propositions for Nov. ’08

By Greg M. Schwartz, Sep 18 2008

Invasion of the Policy Pushers

Interest Groups Spin SF Ballot Arguments

By Matthew Hirsch, Sep 9 2008

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