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Did PolitiFact and ABC's This Week spark a growing wave of Sunday TV factchecking?



Meet-the-facts-logo Who knew the idea of actually checking the facts politicians spew on Sunday TV shows could cause such a kerfuffle?

First, news that the St. Petersburg Times' fact-checking website PolitiFact was teaming with ABC's Sunday politics show This Week to check up on guests claims got them on Stephen Colbert's super-hip media and politics satire The Colbert Report. (read about that adventure here)

Now the idea of fact-checking such guests has raced through the Twitterverse, TV industry and journalism. Volunteers have set up a website,  Meet the Facts, originally intended to pressure Meet the Press host David Gregory into providing similar factchecking of NBC's Sunday politics show.

Now, the site's all-volunteer staff say they will try to heed Gregory's quote from a Washington Post story and do their own fact-checking as interested viewers. Near as I can tell, the site hasn't yet posted any actual fact checking.

But Washington Post media critic Howie Kurtz, who hosts his own media show Reliable Sources on CNN, on Sunday beat them to the punch -- debuting his own fact-checking segment analyzing claims made by various politicians on each of the day's political shows.

Pinocchio Besides bringing some welcome reality to the Sunday shows' rhetoric wars -- and sparking some head-scratching over why this hasn't been done sooner -- such efforts also reveal how tough it is to check the assertions which come out of a pundit or politician's mouth in the heat of a broadcast.

The also reveal just how brilliant now deceased Meet the Press host Tim Russert could be; tracking down inconsistencies his guests had voiced before they came to his show and using them to illuminate the discussion at hand.

What I still want to see: a little real-time fact checking, where easily confirmed facts are vetted and revealed on the same show; also, folks on NBC and CBS should drop their coy act and provide their own fact-checking segments -- regardless of whether a competitor did it first, it's a good idea for everyone. And it wouldn't hurt to whip out a few whoppers from the past when guests re-surface on the show.

The popularity of the idea only highlights what some media experts have been telling journalists for years; that viewers and readers badly need help sorting through all the information spewing at them and journalists are the best folks to handle such a task.

Here's hoping this is an idea with some legs.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:07pm]


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