The 'fact-checking' fallacy in the mainstream media

 Washington Examiner:

It is time for the news business to admit that “fact-checking” is a tiresome, misleading, and dishonest blight on actual reporting.

It hardly existed in Fleet Street when I left Britain in 1997. Checking facts was understood to be the core of a reporter’s job, not something sloughed off to someone else. Perhaps this was because British education was mostly essay writing, not checking multiple-choice boxes. Students quickly learn to write fluently when faced with blank sheets of foolscap and limited time to fill them. Quality obviously varied, but educated people were assumed to be capable of coherent composition.

The residual challenge was knowing the facts or, in the case of reporters, finding them out. So, it was startling at first to encounter America’s bifurcated system, in which “fact-checkers” monitor reporters like gamekeepers trying to catch poachers. And it’s far worse now than it was back then. Fact-checking has grown beyond recognition in the past 25 years and chokes the news business like a parasitic vine.

“Fact-checkers,” often employed by full-time “fact-checking” organizations, are widely granted weighty authority they haven’t earned and don’t deserve. Members of the fact-checker species are no more likely to be right than the reporters whose work they presume to judge. They are themselves often merely former reporters who reached their ceiling in real journalism, or else young novices who have still to learn how it’s done. Yet they’re accorded outsize gravitas. That’s why shallow would-be rebuttals that are really nothing more than opinion pieces are often labeled “fact checks.” Their stolen authority conceals rather than exposes the truth.

Scratch a fact-checker and he’s just another guy lugging around his prejudices and thinking (like a grumpy reader) that a story is flat wrong just because it isn’t written the way he’d have written it. It’s more than a decade since I told my reporters not even to refer in their stories to fact-checkers’ findings. Because they’re irrelevant. That a fact-checker concludes X, Y, or Z usually reveals nothing useful.

Yet fact-checking has spread like a nasty rash over the nether regions of our profession. The people conferring “pinocchios” and “pants on fire” ratings are as likely as not to base their decisions on criteria less related to accuracy than to personal taste, ideology, or slavish acceptance and imposition of a tyrannical orthodoxy.

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The genre was abused as a way to attack Trump when they did not like his opinions.  It became a political tool for the left and not a means of enlightenment.  One of the tells is how many of them do not spend much time dealing with a notorious liar like Joe Biden.  

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