Check your facts

Monday, December 31, 2007 at 18:39 | Posted in Journalism, Politics | Leave a comment
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Many journalistic scoops would be brutally spoiled if all facts were checked before publishing. One would like to believe that media publishes less than factual articles because tight publishing schedules do not allow journalists to get in the bottom of their topics. However, misrepresented facts are often so obvious that one wonders if the author of an article really made a serious effort to uncover the whole truth.

Unlike journalists, politicians are generally not even expected to present their case based on solid and indisputable facts. Each party and candidate are by default assumed to bend the truth to show themselves in a favorable light. While it is practically impossible to provide a balanced picture of complexed issues in a 30 second sound bite, most politicians do not even make an effort because an average voter either does not bother or is not in a position to control the facts.

This is where a site like FactCheck.org is useful. They are dedicated to call the bluff in political rhetorics. The project is hosted by Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. This is how the site defines their mission:

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

What I like about Factcheck.org is that they target republican and democratic misrepresentations of truth equally. Not only do they call the bluff but each statement is also thoroughly analyzed and argumented. The downside is, of course that they heavily concentrate in US topics. Understandable per se since most Americans obviously do not care what happens outside their borders but a similar project with a more global focus would be more than welcome.

In their end of the year post Factcheck.org present a review of some very notable whobbers of 2007. All major presidential candidates get their fair share of the criticism. So do both White House and the Congress and independent groups are not forgotten either.

It is hardly realistic to hope that media and politicians would become any more accurate than they are but one would obviously hope that those who make actual decisions on behalf of us all would have all facts in their disposal and all of them would be given accurate consideration before important decisions are taken. Which is more than the recent record of World leaders implies.

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