What it is: This week we look at a pair of sites that have popped up to better inform the public about the coming presidential election. Politifact.com was launched by the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly and exists to fact check the often grandiose statements candidates make on the campaign trail. For example, it recently checked a Hillary Clinton claim that she led a 1984 effort to improve Arkansas schools. The site reached a true verdict by scouring press clippings from the time and interviewing people who were witness to it.
Another site, PoliticalBase.com, from CNET founder Shelby Bonnie, launched last week. More of a forum for discussion around candidates and issues, it also features a "Money" section that slices and dices who and where contributions for particular candidates are coming from.
The key: Neither seems too wonky and in fact they're both pretty entertaining. For example, Politifact.com rates candidates' statements on a truth-o-meter, from true to half-true to "Pants on Fire" (as in liar, liar). And PoliticalBase.com has a "celebrity" contribution section, where you can see the donations notable people have made to candidates. We found out Time Warner President-Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Bewkes has backed Chris Dodd, and former Screen Actors Guild President Melissa Gilbert donated to Rudy Giuliani.
The big picture: Could such sites be an antidote to any potential political apathy we might assume our country has? "Absolutely," said Politifact Editor and St. Petersburg Times D.C. Bureau Chief Bill Adair. "We're doing what the mainstream media should be doing, sorting out the truth for our readers," he said. Of course, its traffic is small, but according to Hitwise, Politifact.com's traffic grew 317% from August to September. PoliticalBase.com is too new to measure.