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Category - News

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?

For Financial Media, It’s All About People

I’ve never held back my disappointment in the financial media, who constantly provide their audiences with some of the worst advice possible.

While outlets like the Motley Fool aggressively cover stock picking — a stupid practice for 98% of the population — they target the masses.

I’m not even out of bed by the time I’ve heard about the Dow Futures twice on the local news and on the Today show from CNBC updates. If I want to know what the Asian markets did last night, I’ll turn on Fox Business, not News 4 Today in Washington.

The financial media don’t provide useful information to the masses because, well, they wouldn’t make much money doing it. Personal finance is a pretty cut-and-dry subject: once you learn the basics, you’re pretty good to go.

As we know, the media needs something to talk about. And there are only so many ways you can say “spend less than you earn.”

So What Should Financial Media Do?

Responsible financial media outlets need to spend more time focusing on their audience and not recommending mutual funds from their advertisers.

Instead of coming up with “the one stock you must buy” — which you probably shouldn’t — they should tell the stories of real people and their money situations.

This is one of the reasons Dave Ramsey is so popular. It’s not like he ever says anything new — he just applies it to his listeners’ situations.

One of the leading personal finance blogs, The Simple Dollar, publishes a reader mailbag weekly. It’s always my favorite post to read, because it’s real people sharing their real stories.

This was probably one of my biggest issues running the Online Savings Blog. I didn’t have the experience or authority to tell you how to buy a house (I’ve never done it), but I was (and still am) passionate about my personal financial situation.

I can share my story and talk about yours. And in the end, isn’t telling stories what media is all about?

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The Onion: Taking the Media to Task Since 1783

The Onion, easily the funniest outlet this side of CollegeHumor, certainly has a history of challenging the status quo.

They’ve recently been running stories from their “historical archives,” including their first issue from 1783.

In late 1783, change was sweeping the Western world. The Revolutionary War had drawn to a close, the Treaty of Paris had been signed, Mozart’s Great Mass was performed for the first time, and, with the Montgolfier brothers’ balloon, mankind was poised on the threshold of flight. And only one newspaper, H. Ulysses Zweibel’s The Onion, had the courage to stand against it all. Here, for the first time ever, is a reprint edition of The Onion‘s October 6, 1783 issue.

It’s brilliant.

But while political satire is all the rage these days with Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, The Onion has some of the sharpest — and least ideological — comedy.

Gunman Kills 15 Potential Voters In Crucial Swing State

In an era of 24/7 cable news coverage and non-stop election reporting, The Onion is slamming the media for — surprise — not focusing on what really matters.

While members of the media likes to paint themselves as an easy target, there’s a legitimate gripe to be made here.

I’m just surprised they didn’t pull out the Microsoft Surface table for Chuck Todd.

Creepy Polygamist Dale Barlow

creepypolygamist.jpg

FLDS followers: Barlow’s marriage to Arizona 16-year-old was ‘natural and proper’:

Dale Evans Barlow, the man who remains at the heart of the FLDS ranch raid in Texas, was defended by the polygamous community as a victim of religious intolerance when he was convicted of a similar crime last year.

A Texas judge signed an arrest warrant for Barlow last Thursday after a 16-year-old girl accused him of marrying and impregnating her. Barlow, 50, is on probation in Arizona for a conviction stemming from his marriage to a different 16-year-old girl, with whom he has a son.

I’m as a big a believer in the freedom to practice your religion as you can get (hell, I was defending Mitt Romney), but at some point you cross the line from a religious practice to pedophilia.

I’m guessing this guy falls in the second category.

© Jason Unger. A Digital Ink Production.