Apparently on his show earlier today, Chris Matthews was talking about the future of journalism and worried that “the bloggers don’t fact-check.”
I find myself consistently surprised by how frequently this concern is voiced. The fact of the matter is that outside of peer reviewed publications by university presses, books aren’t fact-checked. Live or quasi-live television broadcasts of the sort Matthews hosts or that cable networks show all day aren’t fact-checked. Heck, newspapers aren’t fact-checked. Fact-checking is a fairly idiosyncratic element of the magazine publishing industry. What’s more, if you actually read magazines it’s clear that even a super-rigorous fact-checking process like what they do at The New Yorker doesn’t actually prevent significant errors of interpretation, omission, etc.
Fundamentally, for any kind of news source what matters is not whether or not the “facts” are in some sense “checked” but whether or not the people in charge care about getting it right.