The Post has a must-read piece on the dust-up over Rep. Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech. As the report notes:
The verdict, rendered by a slew of media fact checkers, was immediate and unequivocal: In his first major speech before the American people, the Republican vice presidential nominee repeatedly left out key facts, ignored context and was blind to his own hypocrisy. . . . But the push-back from the Romney campaign, and Republicans at large, was just as quick and just as self-assured.
That push-back turned out to be compelling, or one might even say, “true.” The report notes: “Conservatives said it was unfair to call the statement inaccurate. Although the plant closed in 2009, people had voted for Obama on the premise that he had the power to reopen it. . . . Ryan, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, defended his remarks. ‘I’m not saying it was his decision,’ the Wisconsin Republican said. ‘I’m saying he came and made these promises, makes these commitments, sells people on the notion that he’s going to do all these great achievements, and then none of them occur.’” Hmm. Isn’t that correct?
Looking at the larger picture, the plethora and foibles of fact checkers remind us that with the multiplication and increasingly partisan nature of fact-checking sites has come a reduction in quality. It also has increased the subjectivity in these exercises that is far afield from fact checking.
Looking before they leapt (most likely on oppo research initially fed to left-wing blogs), the media launched an assault on Rep. Paul Ryan’s remarks on Janesville with lightning speed after the speech ended. The push-back and introduction of additional data raised the question as to what purpose the fact checkers serve and who checks the fact checkers.
The answer to who checks the checker is obvious: a multiplicity of reporting and analysis from all perspectives. But then why have fact checkers at all? These outfits portend to dispense impartial “truth”; that’s a risky proposition as we saw this week.. If things can be “true but misleading,” or “impressions” and “inferences” are the basis for “Pants on fire!” ratings, then we need to rename the fact-checking enterprise. Many don’t deal in facts, and many don’t check, at least not completely.
I think deep-dive analysis by excellent journalists of politicians’ statements and ads, as well as of reporting are all necessary and important. But I think the premise that this comes from a source apart from the multifaceted journalistic enterprise in New and Old Media is faulty. Isn’t it the job of reporters to get the facts right?
There are solid, respectable fact checkers and there are cheap knock-offs. But it is odd that outlets don’t have sufficient faith in their own reporters that they find it necessary to tap pseudo-referees. It is even odder when the fact checkers are less reliable than the regular media and refuse to update and correct when new information comes to light.