Stop the Press! I Want to Get Off

The New York Times asks, in all sincerity, whether it should be doing fact-checking.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

Is this really what it’s come to? That one of the oldest, most respected newspapers in the country has to ask itself whether it should be calling bullshit when a politician says something that isn’t true.

I thought the job of newspapers was not just to report what’s going on, but also put it in some sort of context so that it makes sense (within the limits of the format, of course). And part of that is mentioning when a source is wrong. Especially when that source pants-on-fire wrong.

But apparently people at the Old Gray Lady think that “he said, she said” is the same thing as balance and objectivity. It’s not enough to know what a person said; we should also know whether the statement is true or not. Or at least whether it’s credible or not.

To quote one of the comments, “the opinions of cranks and shills disagree with those of experts, and should be portrayed that way.”

It’s sad that the Times even feels the need to ask this question.

Journalistic Balance in a Biased World

CNN has a piece up called Is the lunatic fringe hijacking America?, about how extremists have a disproportionate effect on politics. Okay, fair enough.

But in an effort to be fair and balanced (if not Fair and Balanced™), CNN’s guest gave four examples of extremists, two from the left and two from the right; two from politics, and two from media.

On the right: Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck. Two well-known unhinged nutjobs, but I’m sure we can all think of others: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson, etc.

And to balance them out on the left, Alan Grayson and Keith Olbermann.

When I heard that, my first thought was “Alan who?”. I mean, he could at least have gone with someone people have heard of, like Dennis Kucinich or Wonkette.

Now, as it turns out, Alan Grayson is an actual, honest-to-Cthulhu freshman representative from Florida’s 8th. According to Daily Kos, his long and sordid history of espousing far-left causes includes

  1. Oct. 2, 2009: Characterized the GOP’s health care plan as “Don’t get sick. If you do get sick, die quickly.”
  2. Feb. 3, 2010: Several Republican candidates for Grayson’s seat drop out of the race.

It might also be instructive to see what PolitiFact has to say about their record of truthfulness:

  Michele Bachmann Alan Grayson Glenn Beck Keith Olbermann
True 0 0 0 0
Mostly True 0 0 0 2
Half True 0 0 2 2
Barely True 0 1 4 0
False 3 0 5 1
Pants on Fire 4 0 2 0

Which, I think, confirms Stephen Colbert’s observation that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

I’m all for journalistic balance, and not favoring one ideology over another, but this is ridiculous. The purpose of news outlets is to tell the public what’s going on. Their commitment should be to the truth, not to any party. But what’s going on here is an abdication of that commitment. The truth does not always lie at the midway point between opposite sides. It’s entirely possible for one side to be full of shit, and in that case, it’s a journalist’s job to say so. It’s sad that Jon Stewart could teach these people a few lessons

As for which extremists have the most sway, where’s the army of marching leftist morons to balance out the Teabaggers? Which networks and politicians have promoted their meetings? Where are the calls from the left to dismantle the constitution?

In fact, the most common accusation I hear leveled against Democrats, aside from the background noise that they’re baby-killing communo-fascist terrorist sympathizers, is that they’re wimps who can’t get anything done; that they need to grow a spine and a pair of cojones and start acting like they have a majority.

So CNN can suck my balls. One on the left, and one on the right. For balance.