Saturday, April 21, 2007

Whatever Happened to Fact-Checking?

Roy Blunt (R-MO) is House Minority Whip. Matt Blunt is governor of Missouri. Roy Blunt has been in Congress since 1997. Matt Blunt has been governor since 2005. With those facts in mind, read this from the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle (free subscription req.):

"The federal government is not going to tackle a number of the big issues, whether it's litigation, the environment across the country, expanding access to affordable health care," said Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, whose brother, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is in Congress. "I think there's a sense that the federal government is paralyzed and a lot of these solutions are going to be enacted on the state level."

Sharp-eyed readers should find the major factual error right away.

The Augusta Chronicle is one of the oldest newspapers in the United States, publishing since 1785. It is owned by the Morris Publishing Group, which also owns, among others, the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post and The Examiner of Independence, Mo., both daily newspapers. So the company has a presence in Missouri. The Augusta Chronicle has a 74,567 circulation weekdays and 100,592 circulation Sundays.

One would think such a venerable publication would practice professional journalism. You know, like checking facts. If a reporter plans to explain the connection between a source for a story with the House Minority Whip she or he probably ought to check that connection before publication. It's quite simple to do. Use the Google.

One of my favorite journalism professors, a former managing editor of the Washington (D.C.) Star, taught me the three most important things in reporting: accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy. It's a pity so many news people have forgotten that lesson. But why let facts get in the way of a story, right? Some news people even believe it's OK to lie in print while scolding others.

Journamalism, indeed.