I thought journalism pretty much was fact-checking.

I was reading the Washington Post’s article on the biggest political liars of 2012. It wasn’t so much the fact that both political parties are full of liars that depressed me. I already knew that. No, what bothered me most was this paragraph from one of the organizations that is supposed to help inoculate the populace against political lies.

In this election, fact checking certainly became part of the conversation, with many additional news organizations joining FactCheck.Org, PolitiFact and The Washington Post in scrutinizing politician’s statements, especially during the debates. Since fact checking is a relatively new genre of journalism, however, it is frequently misunderstood.

Fact-checking is a relatively new genre of journalism. Take a moment and let that sink in.

PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
PERSONAL: Happy birthday, Hitch.
PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Fact Checking is new to Newstertainment.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    I’m not sure that fact checking is new to journalism as much as it’s just been so long since most journalists realized that it was part of their job that it only seems like a new addition.

  • indradawn

    I have to agree with Glodson. I just completed a sequence of journalism courses, and classes emphasized fact checking and accountability for both reporting and editorial staff. An editor I worked with at my hometown newspaper gave me a pointed lecture on accuracy on even seemingly insignificant items before he let me in the newsroom, but he was old school. What has changed is in part the infotainment corporatized news product we’ve been sold, particularly in broadcast journalism, but also the 24-hour news cycle driven by the Internet. This “continuous news desk” is great for disseminating information to the public immediately, but news staff is under greater time pressure and errors get made. I see a lot of laziness in reporting as well; it’s easy to simply report what happened or give a falsely equivalent he said-she said accounting of an issue or event. It’s more difficult to provide context and dig deeper into an issue–at least without upsetting corporate bosses. So media consolidation issues are at play as well, and more consolidation is back on the table with this administration.

  • Ryan

    Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment, but it seems to me that while fact-checking is a crucial (and often under-utilized) part of journalism, that’s not the use to which the story is referring. The clue is in the description of it as a new “genre,” or essentially a form of journalism in itself rather than just as a component. FactCheck, Politifact, etc. exist only for the fact check part of traditional journalism, and have no substance beyond that one feature, which pretty clearly makes them new phenomena.