Demanding accountability from those who hold others accountable

Let the nitpicking begin.

Accountability is paramount when it comes to politics. It’s the responsibility of the media to make sure when someone important says something, a reporter follows up to make sure that person isn’t just full of shit making it up.

In the last few years, some terrific analytic reporting has followed. Politifact was born and suddenly political ads couldn’t stretch the truth as effectively or misuse statements out of context as often.

This is, unequivocally, a good thing. When it makes sense.

Yesterday, the Associated Press came out with a factcheck of the most recent Republican debate and right off the bat, it’s obvious the article is an exercise 0f stupidity.

The first apparent untruth was a set of comments made by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich accusing soon-to-be-former President Obama of not taking covert steps to neutralize the growing threat from Iran.

I’m going to now quote from the response the reporters give (yes, this was written by a group of reporters who apparently don’t have 6 brain cells between them to rub together).

“The Facts: It is widely believed that the Obama Administration has been covertly attacking the Iranian nuclear program.”

Here’s the deal guys, you can’t qualify something as being a fact and then say “it’s widely believed.”

Then, by definition, it’s not a fact. I would hope, for the sake of humanity, an Associated Press reporter understands and knows what a fact is.

Basically every “Fact” category offered in this article is an interpretation of opinions rather than actual facts. Phrases like “it’s widely believed,” or “it’s open to question whether,” are not the basis of fact.

You can’t clarify a murky question by saying “it’s murky.” Then you’re basically just restating what we already know.

This is sloppy journalism.

I started working journalism at a television station practicing activist journalism. “Taking Action For You,” was the slogan, one used across the country.

We loved to hold the powers that be accountable. But we also understood there were times when we wanted to hold someone accountable for something, wanted to dig deeper into something, and there just wasn’t much there.

We didn’t run a story if we couldn’t find something to use.

On the other hand, there are certainly times when simply asking the question of a politician is good. People want to hear us ask and want to hear an answer.

This, however, is a much different issue. The candidates have said something, these reporters did no further questioning or research and then attempted to show the validity of the statements the candidates made by offering anecdotes and opinions as fact.

Holding politicians accountable is essential to the premise of democracy. The average person can’t do what the media can when it comes to demanding accountability and demanding questions be answered.

Offerings like this from a supposedly unbiased news gathering source like the Associated Press, likely in response to the popularity of things like Politifact, are evidence that the media as a whole is moving away from the watchdog role it ought to hold.

In its place is an industry driven by the same consumerism as any industry, where the people get what they ask for, but not always what they deserve, what is best for them.

I hope, for everyone’s sake, I’m wrong.

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