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It is not a Sunday host's job to make sure his guests aren't lying any more than it's a party host's job to make sure the food isn't poisoned.
May 20, 2010 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Jay Rosen thinks that "Sunday morning talk shows are broken. As works of journalism they don't work." In December, he had a suggestion for the producers of "Meet the Press": "Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday." When asked about the proposal, David Gregory responded, "People can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms." Two college students took Gregory up on this and created Meet the Facts. On the other hand, it looks like Jake Tapper of ABC's "This Week" thought it was a pretty good idea.

Here's Stephen Colber's coverage.

Via On the Media
posted by brundlefly (31 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think when he says "People can fact-check Meet the Press" he means "Don't you people watch the Daily Show?" That's what the Daily Show does.
posted by amethysts at 9:55 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Sunday morning talk shows are broken. As works of journalism they don't work."

The assumption being that Sunday morning talk shows, or corporate media in general, are intended to be works of journalism.

As for fact-checking in general as a solution to poor journalism: Insufficient. The problem is not (just) the facts. The problem is the framing.

For instance, consider the claim: "Walmart has the lowest milk prices anywhere." Let's say it checks out as true. But is the milk from Walmart any good? Is price the best way to determine what milk you should buy? What does Walmart do with that money, vs what another company would do with the money they made?
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I was under the impression that the Sunday morning "talk shows" have never been anything more than thinly-veiled propaganda outlets. "Works of journalism" is quite a stretch.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've been waiting for something like "Meet the Facts" to pop up; it would seem an irresistible project for wonky student types with aspirations toward a career in journalism or government.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:09 AM on May 20, 2010


When you look at the (very old) episodes of Meet the Press, originally the press agents sat in a row facing the participants, who were sitting out in the open, isolated and looking uncomfortable and aggrieved at being in the spotlight. The press were dressed more casually in sweaters and vests, butl the guests wore uncomfortable suits and ties. It made it seem more like a confrontation, like the press were really taking the representatives to task.

Now they all sit together at a round table, having a polite discussion. Even the press wear ties and suits, which they must own solely for television appearances unless they are part of the White House Press Corps, because I can't imagine sitting around typing on a keyboard in a suit. Everyone gets a say and they are all friends together. Frequently, one of the politicians will go off on a tangent and they definitely slip those all-important talking points in there.

It's a little better when David Gregory is one-one-one, or has just a few guests. Although I like him, I would like to see Gregory question the guests' allegations a little more and call them on it when they are obviously talking out of their asses.
posted by misha at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Sunday morning talk shows are a cryptozoological curiosity who have survived in their neglected niche while other dinosaurs have not purely because viewers are either sleeping or at church and no sponsor will pay for real programming in a time slot like thiiiis ... Pat Buchanan!"

PAT BUCHANAN: *terrified look*
posted by adipocere at 10:12 AM on May 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


Given that most of the "Sunday" talking head shows are videotaped earlier in the week, they really ought to be able to have the fact-checking done and online by the time the shows air on Sunday. In fact, it would be great to have the facts appear as graphics right under the politicians as they speak.

Of course, if they did that, they'd never get a single politician to agree to appear on their programs ever again.
posted by briank at 10:13 AM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oh, damn it. I can't believe I misspelled "Colbert."
posted by brundlefly at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2010


~The assumption being that Sunday morning talk shows, or corporate media in general, are intended to be works of journalism.

~I was under the impression that the Sunday morning "talk shows" have never been anything more than thinly-veiled propaganda outlets. "Works of journalism" is quite a stretch.


Sadly, there actually was a time, back in the mists of yore, where the shows actually were acts of journalism. This was back before the news department was put under the control of the entertainment division. Back when it was understood that the news department was not a profit-making operation. That it was a public good and that it was to be supported by the profits from entertainment. Yes, that time actually existed. And it was a good thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I usually just skip the talk shows and only read PolitiFact. Not only does it clear up what the facts are, but it also shows me the most important fact of all. It tells me who all the fucking liars are that are running their mouths.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:26 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think they should do something like the sports program "Pardon the Interruption" which has "stat boy" Tony Reali who sits by a computer and reads out a list of facts the hosts got wrong at the end of each program.

As for the Sunday talking head shows, I'm surprised I don't see more people talking about Fareed Zakaria's GPS, it's quite less brain dead than the other programs, interesting guests, and discussions that don't boil everything down to Dem vs. Republican campaign strategy.
posted by bobo123 at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2010


PAT BUCHANAN: *terrified look*

WRONG!
posted by octobersurprise at 10:30 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


for what it's worth, Minnesota Public Radio just recently started PoliGraph which is aimed at fact checking politician's statements.
posted by edgeways at 10:33 AM on May 20, 2010


I do like the McLaughlin Group. Meet the press was much better before Tim Russert died.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:36 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


[...]Meet the Facts.
 \  | |  /
- AWESOME -
 @=======@
  |||||||
  |||||||
The site really doesn't deserve to be buried in the FPP like that.
posted by JHarris at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


David Gregory is emblematic of everything wrong with the Beltway press corps. A sycophantic water-carrier of the douchiest order posing as a wise contrarian and guardian of the public sphere. Newsflash, asshole: I expect journalists to fact-check because THAT IS YOUR FUCKING JOB. I do not expect you to grade term papers or craft a lesson plan on Descartes, David. Insufferable prick.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:39 AM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, a fact checking blog is a bit mundane and doesn't mesh well with the source material. Plus it asks people to consume more media in their day, rather than simply better media. Remixing the video itself seems like it has plenty of ways to improve things.

Pop up videos would be one way. Or you could just cut everything that isn't borne out by facts (Assuming you're left with more than opening and ending credits). Perhaps you could remix a show into a "three strikes" of several shows over the week.
posted by pwnguin at 10:39 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Related: Truth-o-meter
posted by crunchland at 10:41 AM on May 20, 2010


"You can fact-check yourself" is the stupidest, lamest excuse for journalism. Of course we /can/ do this -- this is beside the point.

The point is to ask intelligent questions that illuminate the real issues.

Hint: if you are not asking the same questions I am yelling at the TV when some talking head makes a series of statements based on unfounded assumptions and out-right lies, you are not doing your job.

Lobbing softball queries as a sop to disinterested reporting so we can pretend that all sides of a question are treated fairly and evenly is one of the biggest mistakes modern journalism can make.

You know what? Not all opinions are worth discussing because not all opinions are fucking worth the air. Some ideas are stupid and wrong, and after a minute or two of hard questions this is pretty fucking obvious.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:51 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


According to Wikipedia, Chris Wallace (now on Fox News) was moderator of Meet the Press in '87 and '88.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:03 AM on May 20, 2010


Incredible.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:03 AM on May 20, 2010


You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Rosen, and YOU WILL ATONE!
posted by Bromius at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2010


DU is absolutely right. While "fact-checking" isn't a bad thing and might mitigate the parties' ability to use shows like Meet the Press as an open platform to "control the message" (as Cheney staffer Cathie Martin once put it), it has nothing to do with what's actually wrong with the corporate press. In fact, adding instant fact-checking might only add to the problem, lending shillfests like MTP a perception of no-holds-barred media intrepidity: David Gregory's not gonna let you mislead the American people!

Which would be misleading. The problem with the media isn't a lack of fact-checking. It is that the terms of political debate in this country are owned and regulated by corporate power. The nature of that debate is that we may argue and polarize and fact-check anything we like as long as it doesn't fall afoul of the free trade, pro-corporate agenda that is the forum itself. We're in a fishbowl, and that is the water.
posted by cirripede at 11:10 AM on May 20, 2010


Nice post. I heard the OtM story yesterday and was thinking about making it a post but (as usual) didn't get around to it.

I agree with DU about the framing issue but I still think that this is a welcome development because it re-enforces the idea that there are actual absolute truths and lies and not just opposing views on a subject. Republicans especially (but not exclusively) have realized that they can just say any bullshit that they want to and they'll never get called on it. It's nice to know that someone is going to attempt to do just that.
posted by octothorpe at 11:26 AM on May 20, 2010


DU is absolutely right. While "fact-checking" isn't a bad thing and might mitigate the parties' ability to use shows like Meet the Press as an open platform to "control the message" (as Cheney staffer Cathie Martin once put it), it has nothing to do with what's actually wrong with the corporate press.

It'd still better than the job they're doing. Sure, there needs to be more than just the checking of facts, but one thing at a time?

The ultimate problem here, as with so many things in our culture, is that virtues that do not map directly onto the profit motive tend to get ignored. That is a symptom of the problem that money is so god-awful important, and that is a symptom of the fact that we do so little to help the poor.
posted by JHarris at 11:52 AM on May 20, 2010


You better fact check yourself before you fact wreck yourself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:58 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fact checking would be great. Having guests who actually know or care about the facts (on ALL news shows) would also be nice.

I recall last year Chris Matthews had a jackass on who compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain, but who clearly had no idea who Chamberlain was. The press had a field day ridiculing the guy (and rightly so), but I kept thinking that Matthews was no less of a jackass for giving a national forum to a know-nothing just to get some ratings.

So how 'bout we try to limit guest spots on such shows to experts, or at least knowledgeable people? Pundits, talk-show hosts, and spokespeople for the opposing party need not apply. Nor should politicians, who invariably have an agenda to push.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tim Russert once said that he considered Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" to be a victory march.

That tells you all you would ever want to know about the sort of person who would make it as a Sunday talk-show host.
posted by blucevalo at 12:06 PM on May 20, 2010


Tim Russert once said that he considered Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" to be a victory march.

That tells you all you would ever want to know about the sort of person who would make it as a Sunday talk-show host.


Irony!
posted by JHarris at 12:22 PM on May 20, 2010


Fact checking would be good, it's one element of the needed fix. But there's another element that I think would have as great or greater impact & that's re-opening the moderation to a rotating set of reporters. The current setup is designed to give the facade of openness without the reality behind it. Each show has the same format - there's one or more political guests & a panel of reporters - but they never interact with each other except through the moderator who acts like a buffer between them. He alone decides what questions to ask, which questions need a followup, which subjects are in bounds.

The original Meet the Press had the politician confronted by 3 reporters; if one felt a subject was too sensitive or failed to follow up another one could be counted on to step in & do the job for him. It was an open marketploace of ideas where no one viewpoint could dominate. But somewhere along the line the Powers That Be decided that was too dangerous & uncomfortable, so that system went away in favor of the one we have now which is much more manageable, safe & comfortable for the politicians who appear. If we want to return to accountability in the Sunday shows, this is the path to it. No more gatekeepers.
posted by scalefree at 6:16 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Meet the Facts Google TV app that overlays live fact checking and links to related material. There's your future of journalism.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:46 PM on May 20, 2010


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