There has been a surprising trend of outright calling a lie a lie when told by politicians in this leg of the campaign. Hopefully this trend continues as the DNC begins this week, as we’re sure to hear as many distortions, half-truths and outright lies coming from the other side of the…
This is an intriguing debate between two smart journalistic minds: Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith wrote a piece today broadly criticizing the nature of calling policy differences “lies,” as many did with Paul Ryan’s speech; and Anthony De Rosa’s piece, linked here, responds directly to Smith, with a tough kicker line: “What we don’t need is more journalists wasting our time explaining to us why they’re lying.”
A useful third voice in this debate is the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, who had this to say regarding his blog’s coverage of Paul Ryan’s speech: “I’d personally feel better if our coverage didn’t look so lopsided. But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal. So far in this campaign, you can look fair, or you can be fair, but you can’t be both.” In other words, he’s finding it a struggle to show even-handed balance in the face of what seems to be clear dishonesty.
There’s been this long debate in journalism circles about the nature of political reporting in this era of cloudy phrases, conflated bickering and political oneupsmanship that seems to speed up by the hour. Mix in efforts to balance one side with the other, and you get a lot of questions as to whether this is doing more harm than good to modern discourse. (Hint: It probably isn’t helping things.)
Versions of this tweet from astonished non-journalists have been coming at me all week during the fact-checking surge: twitter.com/trafficstatic/…— Jay Rosen(@jayrosen_nyu) September 1, 2012
NYU professor Jay Rosen has been one of the strongest advocates for the idea of no-bull truth-rooted reporting over the idea of false balance. He has this crazy idea: Call stuff out when you see it! We’re with him: What’s the point of objectivity (and balance for the sake of balance) if it forces us into debates over the definition of a lie? We shouldn’t be fighting over the definition of a lie. We should be looking for the truth. It’s sad that we even need to debate this.
This AP fact-check article about statements by Ryan and others at the convention makes some useful points, but my favorite parts are the euphemisms: “took some factual shortcuts,” “bucked reality,” “stretched the truth.” I laughed at all the ways the reporter found to avoid saying “pants on fire.”
“Bucked reality.” That one’s the best.