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Who Fact Checks the Fact Checkers?

Why did the Associated Press, an organization that recently laid off dozens of employees, assign 11 staffers to fact check Sarah Palin’s new book, Going Rogue?

Is it because Palin is a big, fat liar? Is it liberal bias? Or is it because the AP has nothing better to do?

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. But this is an unprecedented fact check for a woman who, well, has never held national office and most Americans couldn’t name 2 years ago. (Then again, the same exact thing could have been said about this guy, seen at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.)

Here’s what Palin had to say on her Facebook page:

Imagine that – 11 AP reporters dedicating time and resources to tearing up the book, instead of using the time and resources to “fact check” what’s going on with Sheik Mohammed’s trial, Pelosi’s health care takeover costs, Hasan’s associations, etc. Amazing.

So when the AP uses so many resources to fact check Palin’s book, it’s only fair that the AP’s fact check is fact checked.

Enter the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).

Not normally known to be friendly to Republicans and conservatives, the CJR has put together a great fact check of the AP’s fact check. It’s available here.

Among the worst offenders?

PALIN: “Was it ambition? I didn’t think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons.” Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.

THE FACTS: Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But “Going Rogue” has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.

Why is this here, other than to sneak in a line about how the memoir is really a campaign autobiography, and a dig at Palin for being motivated by the same things almost all politicians are motivated by? The quote above is self-serving boilerplate, just what you’d expect from a politician’s book. It makes no factual claims, and there’s nothing there that warrants checking.

Major props to the CJR for calling out an unfair article, especially when there has been so much conflicting and misinformation about Palin (some hers, some others). Facts deal in the truth, not opinion. The AP’s fact check obviously included the latter.

Unfortunately, in a society with access to unlimited information, the truth is often the first thing to go.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

2 Comments

  1. The vast majority of the press wants nothing to do with the real truth these days. Its all about making the story work for their beliefs and weaving it into what we see as news. Not completely different than historical press, just more blatant these days unfortunately…

  2. Jason Unger (Author)

    Brent – I loved this quote from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch:

    “One of my favorite habits of journalists is that they refuse to state an opinion. Instead, they find a source to say whatever it is they want said and then quote them.”

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