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Radio Discussion on Fact Checking

Yesterday NYU Professor Jay Rosen, PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair, and Director Brooks Jackson were all interviewed on California radio station KPFA’s Letters to Washington. Host Mitch Jesserich led a interesting discussion between the three, starting with Professor Rosen and his explanation of how his idea came about and his analysis of the current state of the Sunday shows:

An argument about common facts in which the parties and their representatives can take divergent views on those facts is one thing, but an argument where people don’t even agree on facts and what is true in the first place is a completely different thing.

Professor Rosen said he believed the goal of the Sunday shows was to both “take the temperature of Washington” and attempt to start the week by making news with statements made by guests, but that the format of the shows has not adjusted to an increasingly hyper-partisan Washington and that the hosts “tend to show a chronic lack of imagination in responding to shifts in the political game itself.”

Regarding Meet The Press host David Gregory’s statement that there was no need to have a “formal arrangement” for fact checking the show’s guests, Rosen said:

My sense is that David Gregory believes that he himself is a fact checker and if somebody tries to pull anything shady on his show he lets us know right away because he’s an expert interviewer.

Rosen believes Mr. Gregory seems to expect that viewers and pundits from the left and right will later argue publicly about the statements made on air and that kind of post-broadcast attention will work fine by itself.

What he’s really saying is “There aren’t any facts to check after I’ve done my job and all there really is is the clash of opinion” and that’s a very bizarre position for a journalist to take.

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Today Howard Kurtz, media reporter for The Washington Post and host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, added a segment to said show where he fact checks statements made on the previous Sunday’s political show circuit. Here were his comments on the new feature (video then below):

You watch them on Sunday mornings, here and on the other networks, the politicians armed with their talking points that don’t always reflect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There’s been a lot of chatter lately about whether the programs should fact-check their guests after the interviews, an idea that began with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.

I think this is a terrific idea, the actual fact- checking, not the part about Colbert’s gut. And today we’re stepping up to fact-check all five Sunday programs. Were the politicians saying things that were true, partially true, or just plain not true?

Now, this sort of fact-checking takes time and sometimes gets bogged down in details. I bet this isn’t the most exciting television segment you have ever watched. But we all ought to do more of it, especially online, as a way of holding politicians accountable. Maybe that will make them more cautious about what they say on Sunday morning.

On the segment Kurtz basically chose one statement from each show to fact check (incl. CNN’s State of the Union and Fox News Sunday).

UPDATE 5:06pm :

Another comment regarding the feature from Kurtz via Twitter:

Reliable Sources fact-checking popular on Twitter. Should ideally be done during the wk; I’d be happy to help. Viewers seem hungry for it.