Friday, September 21, 2007

Did Bloggers Prompt Proliferation of Fact Checker Sites

FactCheck dot org has generously publicized two new "fact check" sites run by mainstream media operations. The St. Petersburgh Times' PolitiFact* debuted a few months ago and WaPo's The Fact Checker went live earlier this week. Both the MSM sites do the sort of analysis as Annenberg's Fact Check, but with a little more happy news talk about them.

Writing in Slate, news watcher Jack Shafer ponders why members of the media are loath to use the word "lie" to describe the blatant falsehoods of, say, Alberto Gonzalez. Then he notes a trend away from that reluctance, namely the new fact checking sites. And he sites one reason why:

    [George Washington University media professor Mark] Feldstein sees the features as an example of the press adapting to a more competitive environment, noting that "bloggers are not loath to call people liars." The fact-checking sites "offer more analytical and pointed coverage, because their old bland standard of objectivity doesn't cut it any longer," he says.
Not too far off, I think. Even for blogs like this one that have not declared outright war on the "liberal elite msm" or the "corporate-owned msm," the strictures of the cult of objectivity frustrate no end. Reporters love to play false equivalency and, as Shafer notes, even where they call BS it's buried deep in the story. No question many bloggers have taken up the art after a lifetime of shouting in frustration at the TV or newspaper.

And with three fact checking sites, those same bloggers now have that much more information to blog about.

Notes: While I routinely read Slate, this article was flagged by Free Press.

*If you wonder why a gulf coast paper was the first to roll out such a site, the parent company of St. Petersburg Times is run by the Poynter Institute, a journalism school located there.