The system gives Sun writers room to exercise their judgment—as in a July 29th item by Karoun Demerjian that assigned a “legit” rating to a pro-Obama ad that asks, “What is Mitt Romney hiding?” even though, as Demerjian noted, the ad’s insinuation that Romney may have paid no federal income taxes in some years is likely not true (or, in the Sun’s terms, that suggestion “elicits eye rolls and guffaws”). And while not everyone will agree about what constitutes a fair attack, the brief posts generally include enough background information to allow readers to begin to draw their own conclusions.
For its various differences, though, the feature has clear similarities to the work done by the factchecking sites—resemblances underscored by an August 5th post by David McGrath Schwartz that deemed an ad from a pro-Romney group “laughable,” and that concluded with a link to a similar item by PolitiFact.
Damon said the Sun column is generating a good deal of buzz—not so much from campaign staffers as from ordinary readers.
“Some of these Lines of Attack get a lot of comments on the website,” she said. “The one that I did on Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that,’ which kind of exploded nationally—that Line of Attack got 141 comments, which is a lot.” (It also got a laurel from CJR.)
She added that it’s hard to tell whether the response is a signal that the feature is a success, or “just that we’re plugging into what the debate of the week is.” Either way, it sounds as though she and her team are succeeding at the goal they set for Line of Attack: “to provide useful information for voters who are trying to make a decision in the campaign and are just constantly deluged with 24/7 ads.”