Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fact checking sites: more

Mark Glaser just posted an in-depth look at political fact-checking sites at MediaShift. No doubt, fact-check sites may do what media doesn't to hold politicians accountable. But still, so many questions. As I wrote Sunday: still not sure about the answers.

Do these sites increase the perception that we can't trust journalists to get it right? Who are the final arbiters of truth? (if, indeed, there is any such thing. but let's not go there.) And why do we annoint certain sites as more reliable than others? Because they say they are? Because we want/need to believe in them?

And are those reporters who still have jobs too overworked to do the fact-checking themselves?

I also worry that if there is distance between the original report and the subsequent fact-check, folks who don't happen to be computer geeks or news junkies like yours truly might never find the straight story. And even if there is no distance at all, there's still room for the message to get lost.

Anyhow, you'll find me toward the end of Glaser's piece, dancing on...

“Can [fact-check sites and mainstream media] work in tandem? I think they absolutely should,” said Kelley. “But that also can bring problems. There was a Boston Globe piece that referenced Obama talking about McCain’s plan to privatize Social Security and how the recent stock market collapse could have affected current retirees. Then the article quoted saying Obama was wrong because McCain had proposed this plan only for those born in 1950. The article left it at that — without getting into any of the nuances, so Obama’s statement was dismissed as non-factual, but the point of what he was saying was missed.

“Finally, how many fact-check sites will reporters rely upon? You have to wonder where the sites themselves get their info — do they go back to original transcripts? Multiple sources? And also, which ones will become the arbiters of truth? Will it be like relying only upon the New York Times or AP to tell us what’s going on in Washington or Iraq? I guess what I’m saying is that, like soup kitchens, fact-check sites address crucial problems, but the real issue should be why we need them in the first place.”

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