Fact-Checking a Necessary Supplement to Modern Political Reporting
I am posting three Pages today related to journalism ethics, with a focus on digital media. The other two are:
The following article covers how the media’s information gathering practices have changed and why those changes have made third-party fact checkers necessary. It also describes what goes into the fact checking according, in part, to PolitiFact.com’s editor, Bill Adair. In the end, however, analysis is still up to us.
As our high school principal used to quote over the intercom every morning, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Fact-checking has emerged in the past decade as a new media phenomenon with roots in traditional journalism. In the ‘old days,’ said Bill Adair of politifact.org, news outlets and reporters acted as filters for, political statements, weeding out false messages before presenting information to the public. Today, with a virtually endless supply of news sources across television, Internet and print media that report political messages by the minute, the filter is broken. […]
This broken filter has created what Lucas Graves called a ‘symbiotic relationship’ between journalists and fact-checkers, two separate groups that were once a single entity. The panelists agreed that fact checking takes considerable time, time that is not available to reporters in a 24-hour news cycle. Adair said Politifact’s process can take an entire day or more to check a single fact effectively. […]
If the inherent criticism fact checkers aim at political candidates were leveled by reporters, saying ‘no, you’re wrong, and I can prove it,’ candidates might simply stop speaking to those reporters and offer access to other news outlets willing to quote whatever they say. In the current media landscape with a ‘broken filter,’ someone else will always listen.
‘This is journalism that you have to have guts to do,’ Adair said about fact-checking. ‘And you have to be willing to make people mad.’ […]
Politifact’s data relies on original documented sources and leaves the analysis to reporters and other sources. Adair likened fact-checkers to a baseball umpire, a whistle-blower who examines each call individually without making analyses about the game.
‘If you ask an umpire who’s out at home more often … the umpire is going to say, ‘well, I look at every call separately, I don’t know.” Adair said. ‘You don’t go to the umpire for analysis of the game.’
The job of analysis is left to citizens and, increasingly, traditional news outlets, which frequently quote independent fact checkers. This novel relationship between the media, candidates, fact-checkers and ultimately voters, will be more important than ever in the upcoming election. […]