Hassenfrassin Political Journalists

You guys, I can barely keep my eyes open for all the fact-checking that’s happening today.

So here is my question: Why can’t moderators do some fact-checking during the debate?

What would have been so bad about Lehrer saying “Governor Romney, all the tax policies you’ve described until this very moment have been the opposite of what you just said. How do you explain the discrepancy?”

Or, “Mr. President, why do you keep counting war money as future savings, when you’re planning to end those wars several years before we get to that budget?”

Because only underemployed politics junkies (ahem) are going to read the fact-checking the next day.

Wouldn’t it have been simple to have the PBS staff give Lehrer a magic earpiece and feed him the most egregious Pinocchios, so that he could call the dudes on it while the whole world was watching?

Romney had no problem calling pants-on-fire for some of Obama’s interpretations of Romney’s policy. But when Obama tried to do the same, he sounded like he was sitting for a Master’s level oral examination. I know that this stuff is complex, but it’s easy to say “Governor Romney, what you just said is the opposite of what you’ve been saying for a year.”

But why should it be the candidates’ jobs to fact-check each other?

Couldn’t Lehrer say to Romney, Dude, after a year of campaigning to the Tea Party, why are you suddenly the centrist hero of Taxachusetts?

OK, now check this out: I watched about 25 minutes of post-debate news coverage, first on PBS and then on NBC. Every single person. Every single person. All of them talked only about the theatrical presentation. The body language. The facial expressions.

By that measure, sure, I guess Romney did better?

But what about the words the candidates were actually saying? It apparently took a whole day for the news media to muster some comments on the that.

A few weeks ago, Jon Stewart asked a news dude (maybe Brian Williams?) when journalism and fact-checking became separate jobs.

If our media could pay attention to the words, and do some quick online searches while the candidates are “Let me be clear”ing and “To be fair”ing, they could come up with something a little more useful than “that was the most substantive presidential debate we’ve had in years!” and “My god, those men can express thoughts!” and “He looked so confident!” While the world is watching.

Because undecided voters are not going to spend all morning combing the fact-checking sites. And I don’t care how confident a guy looks, if his policies are going to devastate poor and middle-class people.

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3 thoughts on “Hassenfrassin Political Journalists

  1. Howard Uliss says:

    As you know I only watched about half of it. Each one said the same things over and over and the other one would say your facts are wrong,etc. All in all, a pathetic event.

  2. Kofi Annanimous says:

    A-friggin’-men. Real-time fact-checking would make debates useful for once. I mean debates are really a market of influence, right? And there’s absolutely no value put on truthiness, so why would any debater worry about it? If we incentivized them differently then we’d get different behavior. And don’t get me started on all the other lying sources for our political information…

    • Elizabeth says:

      Kofi Annanimous!! I’ve been trying to follow these new journalists’ critiques of the way “objectivity” has evolved. Lehrer was being “objective” by getting out of the way of the “flow,” as he said. Literally.

      By simply letting the candidates speak for themselves, old-school journalism is going its traditional job. But that only worked when traditional news sources controlled discourse. Now they don’t, but the ethics of “objectivity” haven’t caught up with the new media climate.

      I meant to add that into my main post, but I ran out of time! Like the debaters themselves.

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