Fact-checking their ass

Fact-checking their ass
: Tim Blair puts a notch in his mouse. He has successfully fact-checked the Chicago Tribune, discovering a reporter made up a name and now the paper admits it. Blair’s suspicions here. The ‘bune’s response to Blair here. The ‘bune’s correction here.

  • Franky

    It’s a weird one. Blair was wrong but he got the right result. He said that the quote was fabricated, when in fact it wasn’t, it was simply that the journalist changed the name of the quotee (obviously totally unacceptable when not warning the reader). But I guess the larger significance of this case is that bloggers are watching and editors are listening.
    I am sure that on the whole this is a positive move, but I worry of a future of organised witch hunts against targeted journalists.

  • Ebb Tide

    Google has made everyone an instant genius, researcher, fact checker…. or at least a better one than pre-Google… but it does seem a bit un-seemly to get one’s knickers in a twist over that particular story… but the point is, if you doubt something you read you can follow it up and ask for clarification… but I have to say there are ‘wrong’ facts on Google, too, that shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all of fact checking. It’s just reallllllly easy to do.
    Have any of you seen Google’s “Answer” page? it is fun to read through just to see how people research and answer the questions.

  • Crid

    Franky, why fear witch hunts? Layne’s Maxim is “We Can Fact-Check Your Ass.” It’s not a call to political correctness. It acknowledges that poor people with cheap computers have access to instantaneous, diverse and reliable sources of information. The veracity of the right AND the left are subject to confirmation. There’s nothing to “organize” about. If journalists cheat, they lose. Don’t they deserve to?
    But I think it’s REALLY INTERESTING that the blogosphere, the first flower in this new soil, seems to tilt to the right.
    Anyway, Google prosumably delivers a lot more truth and context than LexisNexis does nowadays.

  • Doctor Slack

    CT notes this is partly a vindication of “old media,” given some other things that are going on…

  • Franky

    Hi Crid,
    Yes, I agree these are wonderful new tools to hold a previously essentially unregulated (in real terms of truth etc.) media to the microscope by the masses who are the consumers of this media.
    However, I can’t help feeling that this type of tool will be used in the future for nefarious ends. Just of the top of my head, imagine the organized flak that those who cover the Israeli-Palestine. Check out some of the past campaigns committed by both sides and the pressures they attempt to exert to push their side of the story. I think on some level this may dissuade journalists from controversial investigations, and god knows we don’t need the journalistic class to get even more cowardly.
    I hope I’m being overly pessimistic.

  • Dave F

    Franky, just to fact-check yer ass (nothing personal) the Trib says Uli now admits there was no shrink and the name was made up and it was a friend of his that didn’t want to be named. That’s a fabrication. Since newspaper people tend to detect bull pretty quickly, the Trib also hints the doubt is obviously still there that there was any source at all, since no further explanation was offered by Uli.

  • Michael

    Franky, Even if there really was an actual person (and lets face it, the chances of that appear to be virtually nil) the fact that Schmetzer said his source was a psychiatrist strikes me as not just an attempt to protect his “source” but an attempt to escalate the importance of the person making the quote – as in ‘even the well educated Aussie’s are racist pigs’,
    I mean he could just as easily have protected his “source” by portraying him as a garbo or maybe a unemployed mechanic, but that just wouldn’t have had the same affect now would it?
    Journalists are supposed to report the facts, its bad enough that in so many cases they end up reporting their own opinions, but when they start making up the stories, thats when they cross the line. You say you worry about organised witchhunts, well the thing I worry about is people being willing to accept a journalist who lies.

  • Sortelli

    Tim never said the quote was fabricated, he just started digging because it seemed fishy. It’s not that there aren’t people in Australia who say things like that, it’s that it isn’t a wholly representive view and certainly not one held by a great deal of educated professionals willing to go on the record like that.
    Uli Schmetzer may actually have a racist friend who said those things, but whether or not that is true is irrelevant since he quote was presented in a false context, and it was the context that gave it away.

  • obviously totally unacceptable when not warning the reader
    It was a dumb move by a journalist. By itself and absent any other transgression it should not be a reason for firing. But it should be a cause of humiliation for a little while. Maybe a monetary penalty – donation to charity.
    A stringer should be fired for this, however, but not for being a member of ACT-UP years ago.