prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers

Posted by prof e on October 4, 2016

truthmeterMass media are essential to the process of democracy. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” only works if the people know what’s going on…and the media provide the primary channels for that information. Of course the implication is that the mass media do their jobs in a responsible way, avoiding partisan bias and manipulation by outside interests. The brunt of this responsibility falls on journalists. Whether they work for newspapers, TV networks, or internet websites, reporters who cover the political beat are the eyes and ears of the American electorate. Ideally they report what they see and hear without speculation or conjecture.

In a political season such as this, journalists must be particularly careful when covering candidates who use every trick in the book to manipulate the media and advance their message. When candidates stretch the truth (often to the breaking point) journalists in a live reporting situation must make an effort to call out the error.

But fact checking candidates and their surrogates can be tricky business. While partisans may think that every statement by their political opponents is a flat-out lie, it is seldom that clear-cut. Journalists must have enough command of the facts to catch the easy calls, and the aid of researchers, aka fact-checkers, to parse the more difficult cases. This is not easy. NBC’s Matt Lauer was heavily criticized for pushing back too hard when interviewing Hillary Clinton for the Commander-In-Chief Forum, and NBC’s Lester Holt was criticized for fact-checking Donald Trump but not Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate last week.

Fortunately journalists, and the public, have additional resources at their disposal. Independent fact-checking organizations have stepped up to provide non-partisan, independent fact-checking of politicians and other news-makers. Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter is one example. Here’s a short (light-hearted) video that explains how it works.


6 Responses to “Fact Checking the Fact Checkers”

  1. Courtney Wilder said

    I agree that it is now more difficult than ever for journalists to report and find the truth in a story, especially in politics. While reading this article, it reminded me of how we watched the documentary on Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. I think that this is relevant especially in this years presidential debates, because both the main candidates are always attacking one another with verbal insults, and accusations and viewers without journalists finding out more bout them would not know what was actually going on. You can argue that everyone shouldn’t just listen to what one journalist reports or finds because they could be bias, but I agree you should check multiple sources because you never know what is and isn’t actually true. This is also what was said in the fake news study we listened to. And in the other article we were supposed to read, the algorithm that can create its own articles without having human bias in it is I think a scary idea, because you know your reading good information, but that can also rid America of more jobs that people should be doing. I think it is overall a loss for journalists, because millions of people around the world will be out of jobs, and we wont get the other entertaining articles we may be use to or like reading with our news.

  2. Karley Whiteman said

    Truth is almost impossible to come by. You almost always have a slight bias from any angle you come from. Despite trying to remain neutral, words and actions can be misinterpreted in every context. I believe there are three sides to every story, but only two come to light. There is one story from both sides and the truth. The truth is the one that hardly comes to light. This is related to the films we watched about the debate as well as the discussion about the biases of news channels. There will never be the perfect world in media, however we can begin to bring out the light through fact checks and patience. Often times the media just wants to be the first to disclose information, however this leaves room for information that is not ready for the public because it is just being surfaced and has not been sifted and fact-checked. I think fact checking is crucial but we also need to keep an eye on that business because there may be false information given to them as well.

  3. Journalists can make or break an election, so I agree that mass media are essential to the process of democracy. The public looks to journalists to provide information for fact checking, and to build an opinion. When journalists think about their job, abstaining from biases is almost impossible. Every journalist writes about what is meaningful to them and what they think will grab the readers attention. Journalists are careful, but when in a live reporting situation, they can interpret actions differently than others. This relates to class by how when the paper first started they were based on political objections. When looking back at journalism than and now, they use the same basic principals; however now there are more ways for people to access news and journalists stories are having to keep up with social media feed.

  4. Trey Graham said

    Journalism has and will continue to be very important not only in the political process, but also in keeping up with current events and shaping the perspectives of the people. How people get their news, and the information that they receive are becoming more important now than ever. Two of the biggest problems with conventional news are a lack of variety in sources, and bias presented by large corporate news networks. In some way shows such as the “Daily Show” alleviate those problems. It adds more variety to the sources of news, and can also take a comical yet critical approach to whatever is being presented, which is something you might not see with larger biased news groups. This can in many ways be similar to the muckraking style of reporting which was common among many journalists in the early 1900s. The Daily Show and other similar news outlets should be encouraged simply for variety and for the different perspectives that come along with that variety.

  5. Chris Devery said

    Journalism has been around for many years but it has also changed. Many journalist try and get out as much information as they can when they are reporting someone. When it comes politics journalism is super important because you have to watch and hear every thing they say. Yes they may say something and you misword it but that doesn’t give the audience the right to criticize the reporter. Mass media can really make or break because of how they say things. Many people just take a journalist word instead of actually getting into detail and finding out the information themselves. In that case it is hard for a journalist to put together a good piece because they may not want to get crap from people so they try to be perfect.

  6. Destiny Gray said

    Whether it’s through social media, online web browser, or the news on television, people go there for news. During election year, it’s important to convey the truth to an audience because they vote on who is going to run our country for the next four years. Especially with our candidates, everyone needs to know the truth since neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are trustworthy sources we need the truth so we know exactly who we are voting into office. Besides the election, journalists need to convey the truth whether it’s about the latest terror attack or the latest about Brangolina. Along with those, the news needs to tell their audience about others things that go on in our country like if we are about to go to war with Russia. Recently, there was about to be a nuclear missile war with Russia but no news sources covered it. The fact checker is a good idea because it will the audience a clearer view of the situation but in the end it’s what the reader want to believe or not want to believe since everyone has different morals and values.

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