Report the Facts, Give Them to Me, Please

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the political media in the US is broken. The question is, how to fix it?

This issue has surfaced recently in a Media Matters post on Jay Carney’s assertion that a “telling anecdote” can be a useful insight into a politician’s “authenticity.” And today Kevin Drum asks how the media should handle outright lies from politicians.

The answer, it seems to me, is strict dependence on reporting facts and context, even if (or especially if) one of their sources isn’t telling the truth. No article should be considered complete unless it provides factual background and context for comparison.

So, reporting on John Edwards’ haircut should include a comparison as to how much other candidates spend on grooming. And any story that prints a claim that the FISA amendment only affects foreign communications should point to the section of the bill that shows that this is not the case. Quote experts when necessary, and provide their track records and affiliations.
Adequate journalism requires facts and context. That’s not revolutionary, but it is rare.

This post title is a literary allusion, btw.

UPDATEBrad DeLong and Ezra Klein call for more expert journalists, while Matt Yglesias, strangely and without empirical support, predicts that the market will reward only excellence in journalism.


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