Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A Good Idea, But Not A New One

Steve Gillard sez "Let's take the gloves off", meaning that people annoyed at the shoddy and misleading treatment that Democratic politicians, Democrats, and liberals in general tend to get at the hands of the press should "adopt a reporter" and fact-check them intensively:

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them..

..I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people's reporting the way we track other services. If someone had bothered to question the reporting om Wen Ho Lee, he might not have been accused of espionage falsely by the New York Times. If someone had actually checked Jayson Blair's work, the Times might have fired his ass years earlier.

Keeping score of who's right and wrong, how many times they repeat cannards like Al Gore invented the Internet and make obvious errors. Not accusations of ideology, but actual data and facts.
This is an excellent idea. So excellent, in fact, that it's already being done- or else what did Steve think that outfits like the Media Research Center are for? Yes, they're obviously and completely biased towards conservatism, but it's that very act of constantly harping on the mainstream media that has allowed conseratives to "play the ref".

Atrios commented on this in his entry on this, saying: "We spend a lot of time focusing on the pundits, but it's really the journalists under the cover of 'objectivity' who turned the '00 campaign coverage into a travesty." This is substantially true; opinion/editorial stuff is really only important in how it affects how journalists report- the vast majority of people neither know nor care what the Op/Ed page of the NYT said over the past week.

Still, it's odd that neither Atrios nor Gillard commented that in this, as in so many things, it's all about figuring out how conservatives have been screwing with American politics and turning their own tools against them.

Edit: That said, I'm still entirely in favour of the idea, although I'd like to see integration of two versions of it, both mentioned in the comments thread for the article. The first is that it should be per-journalist- I think that makes sense, and will provide a real impetus to change when the journo figures out that the only way to get this guy off his back is to stop pandering to the right.

The other idea is a per-issue focus, where specific falsehoods like "Al Gore created the internet" are targeted.

I don't think these two are incompatible. What would be most useful is if those who were focusing on specific falsehoods create "falsehood FAQs", which contains both quick "talking points" and more complex responses for those who need it (like per-journalist writers) and a series of links to important evidence. All of these would be necessary because there's no doubt that Bush's Rolling Reelection Squad are going to pay close attention to something like this, and there's still more of them then there are of us... they're better funded, too.

So, pick a role. Either track a journalist, track a lie (and maintain a FAQ), or both. The former shouldn't simply quote the latter because it smacks of form letters, but the latter can serve an invaluable service, saving the former group dozens (perhaps hundreds) of hours of research. Take the "watchblog" phenomenon to the streets, and drive 'em nuts.

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