Cable News and the Need to Fact-Check Pundits

Reason magazine has an interesting blog post about Wendy Murphy, a frequent cable news talking head who apparently throws out plenty of unsubstantiated claims.

Which raises an interesting question: What is the responsibility of news organizations in fact-checking their pundits?

Obviously, not every fact can be challenged on the fly, but the truth is the cable format — you say this, she says that, keep it lively — doesn’t lend itself to much introspection. And it’s not clear half the time that the anchors/hosts are even listening, much less well-informed enough to challenge a wildly inaccurate assertion.

Notably, I found this link on Mediabistro’s TV Newser site, which also had a post about the declining trust in TV news, and there would seem to be a connection. Beyond the partisan divide in news, why should we trust cable channels if in their desire to present verbal pugilism they don’t put in the effort to verify whether the information they’re spewing out is accurate?

ABC News took a step in the right direction by joining with Politifact to fact-check guests on “This Week,” and even that’s imperfect, inasmuch as setting the record straight lags by a week on-air. But at least that’s a start. Perhaps that’s why Anderson Cooper’s CNN interview with spittle-spraying Texas congressman Louis Gohmert (see below) got so much attention. At least Cooper kept asking him for some — any — evidence to back up his “Terror Babies” statements.

Frankly, Ted Koppel still remains the best I’ve ever seen at conducting pointed interviews and challenging misleading or bogus assertions, and last I checked, he’s available. Just a thought.

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