January 11, 2010

Howard Kurtz did a segment on something I've wanted for a long time: Networks holding people accountable for what they say on our airwaves. A TV Ombudsman.

The more this idea gets out there, the more important it becomes to push it home -- although it would be a real miracle if it did happen. MSNBC did correct Giuliani's lie because it was a lie. Fox News ignored it because of partisanship. Kurtz should stop with the false equivalent comparisons. MSNBC does not promote an agenda for 24 hours seven days a week like Fox does, nor have they promoted a movement to overthrow a sitting president.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone got a response from David Gregory:

Over the weekend, I wrote about some recent criticism of the Sunday shows, along with suggestions such as running a fact-check online or mixing up the regular guests. And the piece prompted a few interesting responses, with more suggestions for utilizing technology better.

The Nation's Ari Melber noted that NBC didn't respond to Jay Rosen's fact-check suggestion that he addressed to "Meet the Press" EP Betsy Fischer a couple weeks ago, but David Gregory responded in a statement for my piece. "That's a big shift from refusing to respond at all," Melber wrote. "And while it's an improvement, it also shows how these programs tend to be more responsive to other members of the media than to their audience."...read on

UPDATE II: Nisha Chittal writes: What the Sunday Morning Shows Need Is A New Media Makeover

What troubled me the most was a quote in Calderone’s piece from Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse, who argued that the case for modernizing Sunday shows wasn’t that relevant because young people wouldn’t care enough to watch the shows anyway...


I fully believe that the Sunday morning talk shows need a new media makeover, and I have a handful of ideas for how they can do so. I admit that I know absolutely nothing about what goes into the making of a political talk show. But what I do know is that my generation wants transparency, participation, and engagement in their political process – and their news. So here are my suggestions on how the Sunday shows might undertake a new media makeover that could finally usher them into the year 2010...read on

Nisha has a lot of nice suggestions, but without fact checking all these innovations are useless. It comes down to the truth. Sure, some things can be debated but not the core issue of a story. When Giuliani said America didn't have a domestic attack under George Bush that was a flat out lie and it needs to be cleaned up immediately and if need be, Rudy should be suspended from TV for a year. Do you think that would help things along? We need the media to do a better job. PERIOD.

CNN has the full transcript:

Kurtz: I talked on this program last week about whether all the Sunday shows and, indeed, all television programs should do more fact-checking of what guests say when politicians come and sit in those seats and make claims, some of which don't always bear that much relation to reality.

I want to play some sound. Senator Jim DeMint, the Republican from South Carolina, went on the "CBS Early Show," MSNBC's "Morning Joe," and he talked with Gloria Borger here on STATE OF THE UNION, making a charge about President Obama and the effort against terrorism.

Let me play that, and you're going to see this from Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program and how she took it on, on a factual basis.


SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: A lot of us have been concerned over the last year that the president did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn't use the word anymore.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Senator DeMint, how has he downplayed the risk of terror?

DEMINT: Well, it begins with not even being willing to use the word.

OBAMA: ... terror and extremism that threatens the world's stability...

Extremists sowing terror in pockets of the world...

... suffering in civil wars that breed instability and terror...

... new acts of terror.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: When Jim DeMint says that Barack Obama never uses the word "terror," he's lying. It should probably be pointed out when that happens.


KURTZ: Now, Rachel Maddow is a liberal and she's going after a Republican senator, but does television need do more of that, somebody says the president never uses the word "terror" and you can play the clips and show then, in fact, he did?

KORNBLUT: Well, the way he pronounced it, maybe he was saying tara, T-A-R-A. Yes, sure, but I think in a live interview it's difficult sometimes for people to -- obviously, if you're interviewing someone live, you don't have the video ready, able to prove it. That may be television's job later. Maybe it's our job in the print business to go back and say, look, they said this, it wasn't true, which is what you do all the time.

KURTZ: Well, in fact, "The St. Petersburg Times" has a politifact page where they have a truth-o-meter. "The Washington Post," during the campaign, handed out Pinocchios for false statements.

But I agree. I've been in a situation where people have made charges in an interview, and I don't have the facts to challenge them at that moment. I'm talking about coming back later and doing that.

Now, another person who said something he probably wishes he could take back is the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. He had this to say on Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: One of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror. We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama.


KURTZ: And there was, of course, the matter of 9/11.

Now, the mayor, former mayor, apologized for that misstatement, actually, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, here on CNN. And Stephanopoulos blogged his apology, saying, "I should have pressed him on the misstatement. It was my mistake, my responsibility."

That's one that everyone jumped on. But where do you come down on this question of fact-checking?

CARPENTER: I think the media is largely self-correcting, but I like the idea of having maybe a producer go through and go through the transcript and make sure everything was on the up and up, and maybe posting something, as Jay Rosen suggested, if it wasn't.

That said...

KURTZ: Jay Rosen is an NYU journalism professor who put forth this idea, yes.

CARPENTER: Exactly. He proposed this idea.

But I have seen some fact checks that I do not think are not checking facts. The number one example that stands out in my mind is The Associate Press did a fact-check of Sarah Palin's book, and one of the things was saying that in the book she writes, "I am driven by principle rather than ambition." So they said she was wrong because the book proves she's ambitious. That's not a fact-check, in my mind, so I'm very worried that the fact checks become partisan and they don't rely on black and white facts.

KURTZ: And speaking of partisan fact checks, Margaret Carlson, when Rudy made that misstatement -- and it's not just 9/11. I mean, there was the shoe bomber and there were the anthrax attacks, which all happened under the Bush administration -- MSNBC was all over it.

KURTZ: And on Friday, when I watched some of the Fox opinion shows, O'Reilly, Hannity, no mention whatsoever. It seems like each side goes after the party or the ideology that they don't like.

CARLSON: Well, there's an alternate reality depending what you're watching.

Who is against fact-checking? You know, it's like motherhood and apple pie. However, in the moment, cable relies on people just spouting off.

You know, Senator DeMint is known for that. He gets an awful lot of air time. Giuliani, not so much anymore. He's much more measured.

You know, we know what he meant. He meant since 9/11. He was still wrong because of Richard Reid and some other things, but Republicans tend not to count 9/11 against Bush. That's, like, not on his watch because, oh, we didn't know about that before, so...

KURTZ: But why -- OK. So cable, and even live network news, you live in the moment. But how about the next day, the day after that? Why not do it online? Anybody opposed to that?

CARPENTER: No. Of course not. If you have the resources to do it.


CARPENTER: I mean, if you have the people -- you know, the producers who are willing to do it and hire extra staff, but, again, I mean, there's a number of blogs on each side of the political who go through these shows line by line and can influence...

KURTZ: Exactly. And I'm saying why leave it entirely to the blogs? Why don't television producers and correspondents do it themselves?

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