Jay Rosen recently wrote a post about an issue we've all discussed over this last five years. How to fix the lies that are spewed on the Sunday Talk Shows.
So instead I propose this modest little fix, first floated on Twitter in a post I sent out to Betsy Fischer, Executive Producer of Meet the Press, who never replies to anything I say. “Sadly, you’re a one-way medium,” I said to Fischer, “but here’s an idea for ya: Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday.”
I would extend it to the hosts, as well, although that might spur initial resistance. As some of you have noted before, it is amazing that Pardon the Interruption on ESPN has a fact-check segment at the end of every single show, but the bobbleheads and their guests get to spew whatever nonsense they want, with little to no accountability.
And for us, it is a win/win. If people lie or make things up, there will be a publicized forum for correcting them. And once the guests start to realize they are going to be fact-checked, folks like President McCain might not be on every Sunday spewing bullshit.
During the Scooter Libby trial it was revealed that Dick Cheney manipulated Meet The Press for years which helped lead us into war with Iraq. The trial gave us tangible proof about the consequences this nation faces if distortions and manipulations are allowed to continue on our teevee's.
I'd love it if these shows brought on a bunch of interns and did hire a staff to fact check on the spot. They could do it very cheaply, but don't hold your breath. It's not only the Sunday shows that are the problem, though. I wrote about it in 2008 in my post below, and think it's relevant to have the discussion again.
Punditocracy: A group of pundits who wield great political influence.
Jake Tapper makes this observation on CNN's Reliable Sources in response to Jon Stewart pointing out how many pundits got their primary predictions wrong. This is something we've all been talking about on the liberal blogs for years now:
TAPPER: It's too bad there is no accountability for pundits the way that there is for doctors and brokers.
C&L and many other blogs have become the magnifying glass that scrutinizes the pundits who inhabit our airwaves and call them out when they are culpable for the many wrongs we see on a daily basis. Tapper hints at the fact that there should be some sort of culpability factor, but when we do it, they usually recoil in outrage.
Glenn Greenwald's email chain to John King is a perfect example of this reaction to valid criticism. Forget about the predictions game on an election cycle, because voters end up deciding the outcome, but how about when an issue like a possible WAR is being debated and the public only has the Pundit Class as their information messengers, so to speak ?
Here are a few things the networks can do to clean up their act. (h/t Nicole for some suggestions)
1) Set up an Ombudsman with a staff for each network that isn't an employee of their corporation and have a weekly segment devoted to policing the media. They will also be available to take complaints reported by individual citizens and investigate them thoroughly.
2) Replay clips of each pundit when they've been proven wrong and let them explain their positions and why they thought they were right and ask them how they will correct their mistakes in the future.
3) Keep track of their infractions and set up a benchmark, like a 3 strikes your out rule for pundits. When they hit the benchmark, suspend them for a period of time so they can reflect on their mistakes.
4) When they return to work, ask them why they should be believed in the future.
5) It would be nice if they stopped using pundits that we know have been wrong over and over again.
Please add to the list...