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Fact-checkers are mad as hell and they're not taking it anymore…

Fact-checking and Paul Ryan, BFFs by accident?

News media taking fact checking seriously?

The Paddy Chayefsky classic, Network. Which includes both the immortal "mad as hell" line, but also... "I'm a man without a corporation."

Okay, there's been a slow build to a possible rebirth of fact-checking in the news. That had been kept alive quietly by a few news outlets, mostly notably The Daily Show and the Colbert Report and media commentators including Jeff Jarvis, Arianna Huffington, and Jay Rosen in #presspushback.

(Seriously, Stewart's work, in particular, has been highly professional; note CNN leaves it there and an unedited interview with Chris Wallace.)

Recently, we saw Soledad O'Brien possibly risking her job, check out CNN Actually Fact-Checks A Politician; Hilarity Ensues.

The Paul Ryan speech has now triggered a spasm of fact-checking; perhaps the best summary was recently done by Ari Melber.

What happened?

I've been speaking to news publishers, editors, and reporters for years.

They're concerned that people don't generally trust news outlets anymore, and want help restoring trustworthiness.  (I guess it's a source of desperation that they ask me.)

They're doing it quietly, since they're fighting factions that regard fact-checking and journalistic ethics as quaint relics.

However, they feel that Paul Ryan just went too far at the RNC convention. Check out: Why Paul Ryan thought he could get away with lying: 6 theories.

And Media Shift does a real good job explaining Why Fact-Checking Has Taken Root in This Year's Election:

Take Paul Ryan's convention address last week. Ryan offered several misleading statements and a few obvious lies — falsehoods that he had to know were false — although there's nothing new about politicians lying.

Just look at Ryan's fellow running mates: Sarah Palin lied about the Bridge to Nowhere in her convention address, for example, while during a nationally televised debate, Dick Cheney falsely said he had never met John Edwards, and Edwards falsely charged that the Bush administration lobbied to cut combat pay. They faced mild corrections and very little collateral damage for those high-profile statements.

This time, however, reporters did not let Ryan off the hook by noncommittally airing criticism ("opponents disagreed with his claims"), or reducing corrections to one of those stand-alone sidebars evaluating distortions ("three Pinocchios for the deficit commission history").

Instead, several authoritative accounts of Ryan's address decided that his falsehoods were a key part of the news Ryan made…

So, maybe what's changed is that surviving serious professional news people are "as mad as hell and not taking it anymore."

Beside Paul Ryan's speech, we've seen this building among the most professional people in news media, including Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, and Will McAvoy.  (Yes, the latter's a fictional character, but he's been a seriously inspirational force.)

It also helps that Poynter Institute, which is all about professional journalism, will be holding a conference about the restoration of journalistic ethics this fall.  (Disclaimer: I'm sponsoring it.)

So the deal is that a minority of news people are risking a lot to get serious about their job.

This could be doomed, or a rebirth of news media.  They need our help.

If you think it matters, tell me, and do stuff like Sharing and Retweeting the best of fact-checking. Maybe start with the links above?

13 Responses »

13 Responses to Fact-checkers are mad as hell and they're not taking it anymore…

M says:

Until the news media start fact checking obama then they are nothing more than the governments lapdog.
Everyone brags about things they have done and over time they embellish it so Ryan bragging about running a mile in under 4 minutes is nothing, but they need something to derail him and the news just goes to show they are firmly in obamas pocket by reporting this Gasp scandel "OMG Ryan is lying".
Regardless of this fact, my vote is still going to Romney / Ryan.
At this point my vote would go to Ronald McDonald over obama, anyone but obama would get my vote.

wendy Beck says:

Thanks, Craig. I'm hoping it's a "Newsroom" effect. I'd love to see all journalists, broadcast, print and web, by my proxies. Ask the hard questions and then, when it's avoided, ask a follow-up and SAY the question was not answered! Someone like David Gregory should be shamed when he (as he did on yesterday's Meet The Press) allows Mitt Romney to get away with obfuscation to a perfectly simple question — one example of a loophole he'd close. And I'd love to see "tag-team" journalists who, when a fellow journalist's question doesn't get answered, will continue to ask the question until it's answered. Perhaps a journalist's hall of fame and hall of shame are called for.

Cathy says:

I think most Americans are sick of the lies and would like to see journalists calling politicians out on those lies. If the media continuously calls the politicians out on every lie they tell it forces them, the politicians, to tell truths because they know they won't get away with the lies. That's how it should be!! We teach our children that it isn't okay to lie but then people make excuses for politicians that lie. It's wrong and we all know. It has got to stop. It is the opinion of most that journalists are supposed to present facts, not spin the story in favor of one person or another or try to cover up the facts. I'd like to see journalistic integrity come back, just sayin'.

Teresa Blakeslee says:

I think the lying has become a pandemic and needs to be brought under control. Canada has laws against politicians lying in public. We need the same laws, but will never have them if REAL journalists don't call them on their lies. My Twitter and FaceBook friends are BEGGING the news people to call them on their lies!

PLEASE teach ethics and the requirement of the truth in journalism!

Shane says:

Do this same type of "FACT CHECKING" on our current president too!
Cut the deficit in half in first term… Really? 6 trillion added!
Unemplyment after stimulus will not get higher the 8%… Really? It's not been below since.
Can you just be honest on both sides? Politicains lie, sure and so does EVERY ONE of them not just the R's the D's and the I's do it too.
Have a great day!
Shane

TC says:

I call this "The Newsroom" effect. It could be just a coincidence but I think the show The Newsroom is having a profound effect on journalist psyche in America.

Michael says:

It's amazing to me that The Newsroom — which is largely unwatchable pablum — is having such an effect on journalist culture. Maybe they really are as stupid, poorly educated, and uncurious as they say they are.

CJ says:

I belive Obama and his team push the lieing about as far as anyone or even more, so if you going to check one check yhe other.

Paul says:

People keep commenting on Corporate contributions to campaigns. But what about union contributions. In Chicago, teachers are making 50% more than the average joe and they still go on strike. Oh, I get it. Its for the children. BS. Its greed, pure and simmle.