According to Crooks and Liars, MSNBC’s “Hardball” talking head Chris Matthews belittles “bloggers” by claiming they don’t fact check. While it may be that many online smack-writers are tossing around scurrilous reports while standing on the shoulders of established news sources, nowadays the contingent of so called “bloggers” include seasoned reporters and columnists who blog for their print or broadcast company’s online portal.
The topic of “The Chris Matthews Show” this past week was threefold: “Can America survive without newspapers? Will online news fill the void?” and “When city papers fold, who’s going to watch City Hall?” Matthews presided over a roundtable weighing in on the dire state of newspapers. While The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward kept clamoring for a new business model to come out of the Web’s woodwork, Matthews put bloggers in his cross-hairs saying, “The bloggers don’t fact check.”
It may be easy to say that bloggers are the offenders who don’t fact check, but it’s hard to make that charge stick as an accurate generalization. That’s because bloggers are journalists, scientists and experts in various areas, like sports, photography, real estate, health care, and so many others who get it right.
In fact, Time magazine’s Joe Klein may have hit closer to the truth with his retort, “Nobody fact checks.”
However, such blanket characterizations of fact-challenged “bloggers” or mainstream journalists are not very useful–but worse, fail the accuracy test themselves. Where is the evidence? Is there a study or is this just an example of the unverified information Matthews is complaining about?
For context, here’s a snippet pulled from the show’s transcript (featuring The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, Time magazine’s Joe Klein, and CNN’s Gloria Borger)…
Matthews: Who’s going to fact check for you?
Borger: We fact check, our editors…
Matthews: On-line who’s going to fact check?
Borger: There are still, it depends..
Matthews: The bloggers don’t fact check.
Klein: No body fact checks. We still do, the print magazine and Time Magazine still has elaborate fact checkers….
Borger: We fact check.
Klein: ….but Time.com, no.
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Brown: But they’ll still be able to have the Internet now to fact check. I mean, you know in a way, you know one of the things that amuses me now when I think about it just, you know we have on line fact checkers. There is no information that you can’t find out on line. So the fact is, this idea that fact checking has to be just associated from the reporters is..
Matthews: But that’s not fact checking.
Matthews: I tell you when you write for major magazines like Vanity Fair, every story line by line, we’ve got people checking out the truth or falseness of statements made.
Brown: Yes, but they’re checking it out very often on line.
Klein: But you know who does the fact checking? It’s really interesting, our readers, our readers. My commenters will say, well you said Paul Wolfowitz said that, but on September 8th 1997 he said this.
Borger: But there’s a..
Klein: You know, it’s there. And it’s immediate.
Borger: But there’s a difference between fact checking though, and checking the quality of the journalism.
Matthews: Right, well said.
Borger: Those are, those are two different things, and the quality of the journalism…
Matthews: Check your sources. A good editor will say who are your sources, right.
iMediaEthics’ retort to Matthews? He needs to hand us some facts on this matter before we can check them.