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Bill Adair, editor of Pulitzer Prize winning website PolitiFact, to leave Tampa Bay Times for Duke University

PolitiFact editor Bill Adair is leaving for Duke University.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times (2004)

PolitiFact editor Bill Adair is leaving for Duke University.

4

April

Bill Adair, the Washington Bureau Chief who created and edits the Tampa Bay Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning factchecking operation PolitiFact, will be leaving the newspaper for a professorship at Duke University.

Adair, 51, has worked at the Tampa Bay Times for 24 years. He will become the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University, one of 25 chairs endowed by the John and James L. Knight Foundation.

He leaves the newspaper June 14 for the job, which starts in July. But he also will remain a consultant and contributing editor at PolitiFact, which has not yet named a new editor.

"For 24 years, I've had one of the great jobs in journalism, working at the Tampa Bay Times," said Adair, who expects to split his time between teaching classes on journalism and research into new tools for journalists and new forms for delivering journalism. "I put the Duke job at the same level...It's an opportunity to help shape the future."

Times Editor Neil Brown announced the news to staff in a memo today, along with another message immediately unveiling longtime reporter Alex Leary as the newspaper’s new Washington Bureau Chief. Leary, 38, joined the Tampa Bay Times in 2000, and has covered national politics in Washington since 2009.

“There’s no other newspaper in America that would have made the sustained commitment to PolitiFact that (the Times has) made,” Adair said in the staff memo. “Now, I’m ready to move on to another great job in American journalism…Thanks for a wonderful 24 years.”

In the memo, Brown called Adair “a high energy reporter with unending yet not jaded curiosity.  Always in a detective's hunt for answers, Bill grabbed stories and worked beats that others found too complicated or were unwilling to try because they couldn't see the certain payoff.”

Adair has worked a range of reporting and editing jobs at the Tampa Bay Times, covering Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, national politics and aviation safety. In 2004, he wrote The Mystery of Flight 427: Inside a Crash Investigation, a behind-the-scenes account on how the National Transportation Safety Board solved one of the biggest mysteries in aviation.

In 2007, as Washington bureau chief, he proposed a factchecking website separate from the newspaper’s daily operations to provide special resources for examining political rhetoric in the run up to the next year’s presidential elections. PolitiFact debuted in August 2007, featuring a searchable database of rulings and the renowned Truth-o-Meter; a graphic representation of verdicts ranging from "True" to "Pants on Fire."

By 2009, PolitiFact had won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, becoming one of the highest-profile examples in an emerging trend of factchecking websites and initiatives across political journalism. The website has grown into partnerships with 10 newsrooms across the country, smartphone apps and a version of the website under development in Australia.

The newspaper will begin a national search for a new PolitiFact editor to succeed Adair soon, Brown said. Click FULLSTORY or look below to see the memos.

Title: Bill Adair takes position at Duke University   
Author: Neil Brown   
Body: April, 4, 2013
 
For more than two generations, the Tampa Bay Times has been Florida's journalistic leader in the coverage of public policy and politics.
 
From that rich tradition grew a young reporter who understood that the most important value in our efforts is that democracy works only if its participants understand the issues and are not intimidated by the information.
 
That reporter was Bill Adair, whose vision built PolitiFact and put the Times at the epicenter of the fact-check journalism movement that continues to reshape national political dialogue.
 
I’m greatly saddened to announce that after 24 years with the Times, Bill is leaving us to become the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University. It is one of 25 Knight Chairs endowed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Chair at Duke will allow Bill to teach about media and politics and explore new forms of journalism. He starts in July.
 
Bill worked his way up through the ranks, a high energy reporter with unending yet not jaded curiosity.  Always in a detective's hunt for answers, Bill grabbed stories and worked beats that others found too complicated or were unwilling to try because they couldn't see the certain payoff.
 
Along the way Bill became a nationally recognized expert on aviation and the airline industry. He investigated and then wrote a narrative series for the Times about the crash of USAir Flight 427, which killed 131 near Pittsburgh. The series (which he later used as the basis for a book) was typical of Bill's “black box” approach to journalism. Find the cause; find out what really happened.
 
Bill then moved to our Washington bureau and later became bureau chief.
 
Bill has always been an early adopter, a passionate newsroom advocate for technology and new reporting tools. When it comes to trying new things, Bill is fearless.
 
Which brings us to PolitiFact.
 
Imagine in the celebrity-driven world of Washington journalism -- where flying around with the president and national leaders in search of status and TV exposure is the coin of the realm -- a bureau chief says to his editor: Let's skip all that.
 
That's what happened the day Bill flew down in 2007 and proposed that he give up his traditional role in order to build a fact-checking operation more accessible and robust than any to come before it. We loved Bill's vision for the “Truth-O-Meter” and committed unprecedented resource to developing a marvelous combination of innovative digital presentation and old-school news reporting. Two years later, PolitiFact was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
 

Today the Times has PolitiFact partnerships in 10 newsrooms across the country and Bill has built relationships with media and Web developers to create apps and new ventures that expand our audience and solidify our brand. 
 
In the coming months, PolitiFact will be growing even more. PolitiFact Australia is on the way and we are seeking funding to expand fact-checking in both media and political circles. 
 

That means we have a lot of work ahead to determine the best way to lead PolitiFact. Fortunately, we have an extraordinary team in Washington and in Florida who produce this important and popular journalism.
 

Bill’s last official day at the Times will be June 14. But the good news is that Bill will remain an important ally and consultant as a contributing editor at PolitiFact.
 
I’ll close with a few words from Bill.
 
“I have found Times editors have courage. There’s no other newspaper in America that would have made the sustained commitment to PolitiFact that you have made. Now, I’m ready to move on to another great job in American journalism. The Times is a special place and I treasure the opportunities I’ve had. Thanks for a wonderful 24 years.
 
We congratulate Bill as he and his family embark on this next chapter of their lives.

Title: Alex Leary named Washington Bureau Chief    
Author: Neil Brown    
Body: April 4, 2013
 
Amy, Mike and I are delighted to report that effective immediately, Alex Leary is the new Washington Bureau Chief of the Tampa Bay Times.
 
This honor recognizes one of our most tenacious reporters and skilled writers -- a journalist who has made a mark in every role. Be it scoops walking beats in Citrus, Pasco and St. Pete, a moving narrative on a Medal of Honor winner, or his extraordinary investigation in Tallahassee that brought down a House speaker: Alex Leary distinguishes the Tampa Bay Times.  
 
An Ithaca College graduate with six brothers and sisters, Alex began his career like so many successful Times reporters, at the Valley News in New Hampshire. He joined the Times in 2000.
 
In 2009, we sent Alex to Washington where he has blazed a path of excellence. He has charted the rise of Sen. Marco Rubio and most recently staked the Times’ claim to coverage of the national immigration debate. He is one of our most accomplished and prolific online journalists. He blogs and tweets around the clock -- did you see his nonstop coverage of the Supreme Court hearings last week?

(Alex is also a monthly White House pool reporter. Check out his dispatch on how a bunch of grade-schoolers outscored the president in a game of hoops this week.)
 
Alex is among the most respected reporters in Washington. He joins a tradition of excellent journalists to hold this position, including Phil Gailey, Paul Tash, Eileen Shanahan, David Dahl, Sara Fritz and Bill Adair.

Like his predecessors, Alex is a great credit to the Tampa Bay Times.
 
Please join us in congratulating Alex.



[Last modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 3:00pm]

    

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