Sniffing spin

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Todd Herman is a former talk show host who says he realized he had to do something about “spin” in the news when he “heard a national anchorman lie” to his well-educated mother. Herman, a conservative, and John Atcheson, a liberal, created a Seattle company called SpinSpotter. A downloadable add-on to Firefox (3.0 is the minimum at the moment), Spinoculars, helps detect spin or bias in online news articles.

The program uses a mixture of algorithms and human editing to highlight passages in articles that constitute spin. An advisory board of journalists and journalism academics helped create the program’s standards.

SpinSpotter focuses primarily on the Web sites of CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, The New York Times, and Yahoo News, but over time, Herman hopes, the browser add-on will be an effective tool on any news Web article.

Here’s an extended version of the Future Tense interview with Todd Herman. (

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