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Who woulda thunk it: Fact-checking is popular!

Has anyone else noticed that the Associated Press has been doing some strong fact-checking work lately, aggressively debunking all kinds of nonsense, in an authoritative way, without any of the usual he-said-she-said crap that often mars political reporting?

I asked AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier about this, and he told me something fascinating, if not all together unexpected: Their fact-checking efforts are almost uniformly the most clicked and most linked pieces they produce.

Journalistic fact-checking with authority, it turns out, is popular. Who woulda thunk it?

The AP, and Fournier in particular, have taken no shortage of lumps from the left, with some still accusing him of being in the tank for Republicans. That said, it's a fact that the AP has lately done some very aggressive work in knocking down some of the most pernicious misinformation out there, much of it coming from the right.

The AP, for instance, definitively knocked down claims that Elena Kagan is an "ivory tower peacenik." It called out GOP Senators for their bogus "judicial experience" assault.

The AP also did an extensive investigation into Obama's handling of the Gulf spill, and concluded it "shows little resemblance to Katrina." As Steve Benen noted in lauding this effort, the AP definitively debunked a key media narrative as "baseless."

"What we tend to forget in journalism is that we got in the business to check facts," Fournier says. "Not just to tell people what Obama said and what Gingrich said. It is groundless to say that Kagan is anti-military. So why not call it groundless? This is badly needed when people are being flooded with information."

"The ones that get the most traction are the fact checks," he added.

The AP directs plenty of fact-checking at Obama and Dems, too. The news org recently conculded some GOP attacks on financial reg reform were supportable. It accused Obama of skimping in a recent nuke speech. And it whacked him for supporting reconciliation when he'd previously criticized the tactic.

When I asked Fournier if he was willing to say which side tends to dissemble more, he demurred. "Misleading the public is a bipartisan habit," he insisted. Maybe, but there's no question their most aggressive stuff has been directed at the right.

Fournier says these pieces require real newsroom resources, often taking up more than one staffer for more than a day. But it's also good business. With so much information available at any given time, people seek out efforts to cut through the noise and to take a stand with authority.

Turns out it's a pretty good way to get rewarded with clicks.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 19, 2010; 12:53 PM ET
Categories:  Financial reform , Political media , Supreme Court  
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Next: Blumenthal told truth on same day he fibbed

Comments

I really appreciate this article Greg.

But just an aside, isn't "Journalistic fact-checking with authority" just "journalism"?

"Journalistic fact-checking" is redundant, since it is -- or should be -- implied that JOURNALISTS CHECK FACTS. It's literally the first thing you learn in journalism 101.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 19, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Ethan -- yup. Exactly right. But these days it needs restating. :)

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 19, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Wait, what? Fournier has rediscovered fact checking? Astonishing.

And Ethan2010 is right - we should expect fact checking as part of normal, every day journalism.

Posted by: lcrider1 | May 19, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Imagine that....journalism has come full-circle.

Posted by: caribgirl | May 19, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Slave Sargent:

Fact checking? A lot of that going around...

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/05/post_198.html

One of the "Marines" standing behind faux Viet nam vet Blumenthal is himself apparently a "faux-mer Marine".

Posted by: Bilgeman | May 19, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Ron Fournier.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | May 19, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

And while we're fact checking...

There's Louise Slaughter's immortal "woman who was wearing hjer dead sister's false teeth"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX68gyyJrkE

Slaughter fleshed her claim out:

"“I talked about a woman from Buffalo who couldn’t afford her own dentures so instead wore a set of dentures from her deceased sister. “Do you believe that in America that’s where we would be?
I learned of the story while in Buffalo from Dr. Lavonne Ansari of the Community Health Center of Buffalo who spoke passionately about one of her patients at a press conference in her Buffalo office in November.”"-from:

http://wnymedia.net/temp/2010/02/white-house-health-care-summit/

Oh-KAY then…and who is “Dr Lavonne Ansari”?

Why here she is:

...Biography appears in Uncrowned Queens: African American Women Community Builders of WNY, Volume III

"LaVonne E. Ansari, Ph.D. is the first Muslim African American female Vice President of Niagara County Community College. Dr. Ansari’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Studies from Brockport State College, a Certificate in Career Development and Management in Women’s Studies from Cornell University , a Master’s Degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from Buffalo State College and a Ph.D. in Sociology of Education at the State University at Buffalo.”-from:

http://wings.buffalo.edu/uncrownedqueens/Q/bios/A/ansari_lavonne.html

Nice picture, very attractive woman…but hold on a minute!

She’s not an M.D. The “Dr” honorific is just that…honorific.

And since she’s not a Doctor, then she doesn’t HAVE any patients to tell Congresswoman Slaughter about.

I know how good you moonbats ae at forgetting things you have been told you are to forget.

Posted by: Bilgeman | May 19, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

O/T

Two words re: Yesterday's Elections: Woo. Hoo.

Also, I can't wait for GOP and Teabagger heads to explode once they realize what Rand Paul actually believes. Good times!

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Bilgeman,

History lesson: The word "doctor" has been around longer than Physicians. It's original meaning was "Teacher" and was given to those that earned PhDs. It implies two things, that they can do teaching and do research. A physician is not required to do either of those things.

So, technically, the "honorific" is that physicians are called "doctors" since they don't actually earn a PhD in the same way that a normal doctor does.

Posted by: allthingscode | May 19, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Hey, maybe we're not the simpletons that the MSM has assumed we were. The press actually gets more attention from the public when they do their job well.

Why did the press ever believe that NOT doing their jobs well was best for the public?

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 19, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Greg, I emailed you one of the Whitman ads and here's another one that's been running non-stop here. I think the Goldman Sachs link is going to do her in. She's lost a huge lead against Poizner, they're neck and neck now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUioL7wHXRo&feature=related

Posted by: lmsinca | May 19, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Re Whitman and Poizner: We truly are doomed if Jerry Brown is to be California's next governor.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 19, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Bilge,
There are many different doctorates offered besides M.D.s: Ph.D., E.D.D., D.Div., J.D., D.O., D.B.A., D.P.T., D.M. & D.M.A. - just to name a few. There are probably more. They are all legitimately entitled to be addressed as "Dr." whether or not you approve.

Believe it or not, you don't get to set the rules for the rest of us.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 19, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"t's a fact that the AP has lately done some very aggressive work in knocking down some of the most pernicious misinformation out there, much of it coming from the right."

You said it. Greg. People are really interested in true and accurate information. WTF?

BTW: Is anyone more clueless than Howard Fineman? It's as if Howard and Tweety live in an alternate universe.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Also O/T (apologies)

Yes, American voters are angry. Of course they are. We are just beginning to emerge from a shocking recession that nearly wrecked the economy; we are fighting two wars that will seemingly never end; the national debt is astronomical. People are worried and that leads to anger. OK, so Americans are angry. But that facile observation barely advances the ball. But what are people really angry about? Well, to the extent the Teabaggers represent legitimate sentiment, Teabaggers (for now, anyway) are angry mainly at the Federal government. Liberal Dems are frustrated that their party won't stand and fight for their principles. These positions appear to be polar opposites but they aren't. Americans are angry that the country has gone off the rails but WHEN did that happen and what was the CAUSE? Despite the GOP's efforts to blame Obama, most everyone knows that Bush-Cheney, the Republicans, and Anti-Government Conservatism are what have laid the nation low. Even the Teabaggers' fury at the national government, once it's unwound, will likely prove to be hostility towards INEFFECTUAL government rather than towards government itself (the BP Gulf Oil Disaster has served to remind people why we have government). Even Rand Paul last night said that the Teabaggers intended to take "their government" back. Not take their country back, as the Teabaggers are wont to screech; their GOVERNMENT. Nonetheless, as a true Libertarian, Paul stands on the fringe of American politics and really doesn't believe the federal government should do much at all. The GOP is about to find out that that position won't even play well in Kentucky. Assuming the Dem candidate is competent, I predict a Dem pickup for that Senate seat.

Anti-government Conservatism is what has delivered us to this wretched state. People know that. For that reason, Anti-government Conservatism is dead, which the GOP is about to find out in a big way.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 19, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Funny little moonbat cattle:

The laws allowing what kind of "doctors" can have "patients" are not set by me, but by state medical licensing boards.

And a "Doctor" of Sociology or Education simply doesn't cut it.

Slaughter's words were quite specific:

"I learned of the story while in Buffalo from Dr. Lavonne Ansari of the Community Health Center of Buffalo who spoke passionately about one of her patients at a press conference in her Buffalo office in November"

Perhaps Slaughter mis-spoke...and perhaps she also did not serve in Viet Nam?

Of course this is all entirely and hilariously beside the point.

The point being that this story was obviously BS, and nobody tmk fact-checked it, except for little ole me.

Posted by: Bilgeman | May 19, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

allthings,

Current history lesson: PhDs don't treat "patients" at something called a "Community Health Center."


Bilgeman,

Don't you know, no one is interested in fact checking lefty loons. They are entitled to make up their own facts.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 19, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Bilgeman,

No one challenged the patient aspect of your post. They challenged your assertion that only MD's have claim to the title of "doctor". You are wrong. Now, whether Dr. Ansari has patients is another issue. If the health center also addresses mental health issues, she could well have patients as a psychotherapist. Because psychotherapy encompasses more than psychology and psychiatry, with a PhD in Sociology and Education, she could practice as a psychotherapist. Not that everyone would acknowledge that she has an valid expertise...

Anywho, you avoided the fact that you ARE wrong about the title of doctor by responding to challenges on the patient front that didn't exist in any of the responses to you.

Just thought I'd point that out if you'd missed it...

:)

Posted by: Kelitha | May 19, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Bilge,
So, if I understand you, you are chiding Slaughter for using the word "patients" even as you concede that she could have misspoke? It was not Dr. Ansari making the claims, but Slaughter. What is the problem? Do you think that Slaughter is engaged in some major conspiracy to misrepresent Ansari's doctorate?

I think you wasted a perfectly psychotic stream of unconsciousness rant on nothing.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 19, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

""Bilgeman,

Don't you know, no one is interested in fact checking lefty loons. ."""


That would be because we 'lefty loons' don't go around making things up out of thin air.

death panels anyone?

and did you hear the one about the state flag of Ohio being an Obama flag?

Posted by: anthony002 | May 19, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Well WaPo, as a criminal justice professional and military family, it would have been really nice had your paper done 'fact checking 101' BEFORE Bush took the country into war. I found out he was lying-but NOT from WaPo. I looked at declassified intel estimates, US Army War college papers, international media sources, etc.
What did YOU use for research, besides the fax you received daily from the White House?
Look at the mess we are in and besides our cowardly congress-crying because they didn't want Dubya saying 'they wad-nt' Merrican patriots" - your (and the rest of American media) lack of 'fact checking' has nearly destroyed this country.
That's why YOUR 'news business' is the ONLY one covered by the protection of the First Amendment.
Another 'fact checking 101' project could have been when the banksters were doing shady business -dumping their (now our) toxic assets. Thanks for nothing!

Posted by: PrissyPatriot | May 19, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Well WaPo, as a criminal justice professional and military family, it would have been really nice had your paper done 'fact checking 101' BEFORE Bush took the country into war. I found out he was lying-but NOT from WaPo. I looked at declassified intel estimates, US Army War college papers, international media sources, etc.
What did YOU use as research? The fax you received daily from the White House?
Look at the mess we are in and besides our cowardly congress-crying because they didn't want Dubya saying 'they wad-nt' Merrikan patriots" - your (and the rest of American media) lack of 'fact checking' has nearly destroyed this country.
You didn't give average Americans enough information to make informed decisions regarding their government-and that was your duty.
There is a reason that YOUR 'news business' is the ONLY one covered by the protection of the First Amendment.
Another 'fact checking 101' project could have been when the banksters were doing shady business -dumping their (now our) toxic assets.
Thanks for nothing!

Posted by: PrissyPatriot | May 19, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

kudos to AP for bringing back a basic function of journalism that has been sorely lacking these days.
And it shows.
Without the fact checking, the news has suffered and in its place has been the maddenly he said-she said garbage.
And the republicans will never clean up their act, grow up or even try unless they are held accountable for what they say and the misinformation campaigns they engage in.

Posted by: vwcat | May 19, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

It's about time. The media lost it back when they moved to "for profit" from presenting the news as a community service. Now we have folks totally ignorant of reality and the GOP loves it that way. The dumbing down of Americans has come true.

Posted by: DownriverDem | May 20, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't imagine that fact-checking will be much more than a fad for the US corporate news media. After all, facts aren't popular with corporations or the politicians who work for them.
If the online indy-media outlets keep it up, they will finally bury WaPo, the NYTimes, the networks and the rest of the old parrots that still work for Operation Mockingbird.
However, if WaPo wants to show there's a little juice left in its dessicated corpse, I recommend fact-checking government claims around 9/11 and the anthrax murders, not least around the official cover-ups. If WaPo made a material apology like that, the readers who have been staying away in growing droves might be tempted back.

Posted by: NoOneYouKnow | May 20, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Bilgeman,

I've been helped through some very difficult times by some very knowledgeable and professional Ph.D.s and, in one case, an Ed.D. They were all licensed psychologists and/or psychotherapists, and I was definitely their patient. And thank God for it, too.

But then, I guess they weren't able to cure me of moonbattery, were they.

Posted by: Caperton | May 23, 2010 4:12 AM | Report abuse

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