All Along the Watchtower
…Sure, there are examples of Fact Check Journalism doing good. And then there’s the NPR Fact Check of the 2019 State of the Union Address.
It’s a long read. I recommend it. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself agreeing with most of the commentary. If you’re not, then maybe you won’t. But whether you agree with the commentary or not isn’t the point. Ignore whether you agreed or disagreed with its sentiments. Read it again and ask yourself: Is this really a fact check? Or is this person trying to shape how I think by presenting his or her opinions as a fact check? As it happens, I think you’ll find that there are actual fact checks in the article, mostly in the well-researched responses to the immigration and border wall questions, other responses to foreign policy and national security questions, and in many of Jim Zarroli’s checks on economic statements.
But with those exceptions, NPR’s Fact Check is an analysis, commentary and opinion piece. There’s nothing wrong with that on its own. That’s an important role of the press. But publishing a piece like this as a ‘fact check’ is not just fiat news. It is fraud, a fraud of the kind that will kill confidence in the media stone dead unless others of influence recognize it and disavow it.
What am I talking about? Let’s take a look.