California Watch launches site to track candidates

June 21, 2010 8:38:43 PM PDT
There is a new investigative tool for fact checking California gubernatorial candidates Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown. The California Watch website promises to cut through the rhetoric and show where the candidates stand on the issues.

California Watch is part of the non-profit and independent Center for Investigative Reporting. What they are doing is compiling thousands of statements, made by Brown and Whitman and then comparing them, so voters can see where the candidates stand and where they've been vague or inconsistent.

Take a public statement by Whitman on a particular issue -- say the budget -- and then compare to what Brown has said on the same issue and you have a big part of what political reporting is all about.

Now take every quote, promise or statement made by both candidates and run them though a whole batch of search tools and you've got the basic idea behind Politics Verbatim website.

"It's a way that voters can use it almost as a voter guide. It sorts by issues like abortion, the budget welfare, environment, topics like that," says Mark Katches, the editorial director from California Watch.

Katches showed off the site which also sorts the candidates' statements by geography so people can see if the candidates are telling voters in Orange County the same things they're saying in San Francisco.

"There will be a way for people do a search and sort for inconsistencies with this site, definitely," says Katches.

Katches says his staff is scouring political coverage of speeches, statements made by the candidates on Facebook and Twitter and on their campaign sites.

"On top of that, what we're trying to do in our next iteration is make it really easy for other news organizations, news partners, as well as the general public to upload video, audio files to us so that we can transcribe them and put them directly onto the site," says Katches.

Katches envisions Politics Verbatim as a 21st-century voter guide, but ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D., doesn't think so.

"Well because voters have better things to do with their lives, they have lives, unlike political reporters and political scientists," says Cain.

Cain says journalists and political scientists and bloggers will find the site a very useful tool and will report on what they find.

"And that's how it'll ultimately get to your average voter," says Cain.

Cain also believes there may well be an unintended consequence.

"One unintended consequence particularly with these two candidates is it may push them to be even more vague than they already have been," says Cain.

And we have seen that in this governor's race from both sides. Again, Politics Verbatim sorts for vague or deflected statements and they're going to be adding another flag for flip flops. ABC7 and California Watch are media partners and ABC7 will be contributing our coverage of Whitman and Brown to the Politics Verbatim team.


Load Comments