Should Viewers Be Fact-Checkers?

Monday, April 12, 2010

In the Washington Monthly, an article by Steve Benen deals with TV fact-checking.

"One of the Sunday shows invites a high-profile guest to discuss current events. The guest responds to pointed questions, and makes a variety of claims and arguments. Some of those claims and arguments will be accurate, and some won't. For the news consumer watching at home, the information gleaned from the interview is only useful if he/she knows whether the guest's comments are factual."

"With that in mind, the Sunday shows have a couple of choices. First, hosts can become knowledgeable about the subject matter and fact-check the guests' claims during the program. Second, the shows can partner with independent fact-checkers like This Week has done with PolitiFact. Or third, some combination of the two."

When these concepts were introduced to David Gregory, host of NBC's Meet the Press, he responded that it was an "interesting idea," but not one the NBC show will be emulating. "People can fact-check Meet the Press every week on their own terms."

Benen poses this: "'Gregory's comments suggest a more traditional approach: let viewers figure things out on their own terms. Why separate fact from fiction for news consumers when they can do that on their own?'"

I have always trusted in the media to tell the truth, but on these talks shows how is that possible if the guest doesn't answer questions truthfully?

I certainly don't have the time or interest in becoming a fact-checker.

Should independent fact-checkers be hired to do the work?

Should programs check facts during their broadcasts, or is that even possible?


Kari.Ratkovich April 12, 2010 at 7:41 PM  

I think that it would be nearly impossible to fact check everything on every show. There is no way to tell if the guest you are interviewing is responding truthfully. But does it really matter? If you are witnessing said person say something, you typically believe them. It did come out of their own mouth after all. News shows and the like can't possibly know what is going to happen during a live show. Even if you did a pre-show briefing, the guest could change their answer once on camera. It hurts my brain to even think that people/shows are trying to do this. Are they fact checking every single phrase? Are there certain criteria in which fact checkers use to deem something "worth checking"?

Anonymous,  April 13, 2010 at 8:39 AM  

For the average consumer, making time to just listen about a topic of interest on the TV is as much time as they have available. There isn't time to check facts. The perception is that journalists are providing a fair and balanced report. I expect that if the interviewee is providing opinions as facts, that either the opposite side is represented or it is made clear that this is their own opinion.

Katelyn Chamberlin April 13, 2010 at 9:09 AM  

I think that if we are relying on supposedly credible sources to get our news, then they should make sure what they are telling us is truly correct. I believe it is their job as a form of journalist to make sure their content is free of errors. After all, if something is wrong and we as the public take it as the truth, then it is the media's fault and they should be held accountable.

Staci Mead April 13, 2010 at 6:46 PM  

this is an interesting argument. One of the primary rules of Journalism and media is to tell the truth, but we all know that the truth doesn't always come out. I agree with Kari and the author that it would be impossible to review everything, and I have NO INTEREST in checking the facts, but if I'm interested in something they have to say, doing my own research and looking into it makes me a smarter consumer doesn't it? We have a responsibility as consumers as well to report when someone doesn't tell the truth, much like we do if we order a sandwich without Mayo, or report GMC to Consumer Reporting. At some point, the responsibility does fall back on us a little bit.

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