Monday, September 24, 2007

Another look at factchecking (Coulter's), and illuminating history

Right on point with this current discussion of factchecking, Mark Bowden's column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Point: How not to do journalism. Ann Coulter used an earlier Bowden column, in which he supported the invasion of Iraq, and, he says, twisted the facts. A good lession in why journalistic factchecking is important:

This is just a small and relatively inconsequential example of the methods employed by the pundits who offer what increasingly poses as journalism in this country.
Coulter...represents a form of journalism free of real reporting or even modest research, which is very popular today. "Facts" are not things to be carefully observed or unearthed, but tidbits gleaned by Google or Yahoo searches. Where the facts don't exactly fit the argument, they can be artfully massaged.
... Coulter's claim that Mark Bowden warned of 60,000 to 100,000 U.S. deaths has been so widely reprinted and distributed that I could never effectively debunk it. It is out there in the ether, and there it shall remain. My note to her went unanswered, which tells you something. If journalism proceeds down this sloppy path, it is likely to turn up in my obituary.

Two wonderful examples today of why good journalism will never be replaced, in The Miami Herald:
Andrea Robinson writes about a sad time in Miami history, when 60 years ago black families were summarily displaced from their homes in an early version of gentrification: Railroad Shop: The day a black community died. It's a great example of how a well-researched newspaper story can bring history back to life.

And, by Steve Rothaus, a wonderful profile of the couple who are leading the attack on Fort Lauderdale mayor Jim Naugle and his homophobic policies: Quiet couple is called to action. Valuable in its putting a face on the people behind a story, but also a contribution to future historical reporting.

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