By: Joe Strupp
When editors at The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times wanted to promote their new campaign fact-checking Web site, a rock music video seemed appropriate.
After all, this is the YouTube, Facebook, and MTV generation. So if you can?t download it, digitize it, and dance along to it, don?t bother.
The result: “Gimme the Truth” (aka the Politfact Song). It’s no Top Ten hit yet, but it’s the Times’ most innovative marketing tool for its new campaign Web site, politifact.com.
“This recognizes that potential users are not the kind of people who would read newspapers or come to political sites,” Bill Adair, Times Washington bureau chief and editor of the new site, said about the video. “I really salute our people for their creativity.”
The video can be seen here
Politifact.com is jointly operated with Congressional Quarterly, another Times property. It takes a recent popular angle used by many newspapers and Web sites, fact-checking campaign comments and advertisements, and devotes an entire Web site to it. Launched last month, the site does nothing but seek to verify what the major presidential candidates have said in comments or advertisements and offers the truth.
“At a time when there’s just such chaos in sorting out what candidates are saying, we want to have this for our readers,” said Adair, an 18-year Times veteran. “We have two areas on the site — the main area with claims candidates make about themselves and issues, and another about what they say about others.”
The site uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to rate the candidate’s version versus the facts, with readings of False, True, Half-True, Half False and mostly true or false.
Then there is “Pants On Fire,” the reading, engulfed in flames, that shows the candidate is beyond any belief. When Rudolph Giuliani said in London last week that he was “probably one of the four or five best-known Americans in the world,? he won a Pants on Fire rating after Times reporters checked hits on Google and found at least nine Americans, from Oprah Winfrey to Brad Pitt, registering higher.
“You are able to go to a candidate’s name and see everything they have said about another candidate and everything said about them,” Adair added.
The music video, shot just two weeks ago, includes about 35 Times staffers as extras and in cameos. The would-be American Idols gathered on a Saturday to shoot the video, which depicts a voter in search of the truth about campaigns at the voting booth.
Hearing music beyond the voting area, he is drawn into a backroom where the band is playing the song – sort of Green Day meets Christina Aguilara – on a stage joined by a masked Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, with reminders of each of their historic false statements.
The hero learns, of course, that Politifact can help him get through the mass of false ads and misstatements as the band’s leader sings lyrics such as:
“Give me the truth
Show me who lies
Cause you can see it in my eyes
I need some proof
To help me surmise
Candidates I will tell goodbye”
And, of course, the repeated phrase:
“Cause I need to know.
Who is a hack
Won?t you tell me Politifact?”
In the process of learning the truth, and voting, the “hero” naturally finds love with the voting volunteer who helps him.
Among the video band members is Times Media Critic Eric Deggans on drums and Deputy Metro Editor Christopher Ave on guitar. Ave also wrote the song.
“I am in a couple of bands and have composed a couple of tunes so when they approached me with the video idea I wrote it up,” Ave told E&P. “What is cool is we are in an old school company learning how to use the Web.”
Adrian Phillips, senior online editor, shot the video, which editors have posted on the Politifact site, as well as YouTube.com. As of Tuesday morning, it had gotten 2,238 hits on YouTube.
“If it has the intended result, we might do it again,” he said, noting the result is, of course, attention to the site. “Politifact is there to provide a voice.”