Death to the fact check

Not because it’s a bad idea, but precisely the opposite: the ultimate goal of fact-checking should be for the practice to appear as part of regular news reporting, instead of as a separate, specialized feature that garners significantly less attention. The Columbia Journalism Review‘s Brendan Nyhan sums it up best:

Dedicated factcheckers like PolitiFact and Factcheck.org play a critical role, but we will know that factchecking has succeeded in changing American political journalism when it disappears as a specialized function. The process of factchecking needs to be integrated into political coverage, not ghettoized in sidebars and online features. If more reporters adopt best practices for covering misinformation (including exercising discretion in not fact-checking some statements), politicians and other public figures could face even more effective scrutiny in 2013 and beyond.

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Soledad O’Brien is a truth vigilante

Jay Rosen noted an encouraging development from CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, seen below (on Monday’s show) challenging reigning Republican doofus (and U.S. Representative from New York) Peter King on his “Obama’s apology tour” lies.

O’Brien is on somewhat of a roll, as she managed to reduce another Romney surrogate to flailing ad hominem attacks last month when his “reality” simply refused to match up with, well, Reality’s reality.

This is exactly the type of journalism we need to see more often if the infamous “post-truth” trend in American campaign seasons is to be stopped. It’s going to take aggressive but fair questioning, backed with judiciously researched data and facts. And it’s going to require a journalistic courage not to back down in the face of screaming old white men (or black men, or white women, or anyone else).

Over time, these confrontations could even become less necessary as campaigns readjust, knowing they won’t get away with telling lies on a national TV channel devoted to journalism. It goes without saying that journalists must be aggressive with lies told by both sides, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in political science to see that the vast majority of bald-faced lies, distortions, and half-truths is coming from the right wing these days. It’s time to remind them we’re not all as stupid as they clearly think we are.