Seeking truth in journalism
© JAMESCHIPPER / AGE FOTOS TOCK
the f ts
By John McManus
faster than virtue in Vegas,
leaving journalism an economic orphan.
■ Anyone with access
to the Internet can now be
a “journalist.” But tens of
thousands of those trained
to gather and report the
news can no longer find
work. As a result, metro
newspapers—the best of
which were trusted referees
of political disputes, hon-esty-inspiring investigators
of public fraud and courts
of last resort for the powerless—no longer possess the
resources to guard or guide
FactCheck.org, operated by the University of
Pennsylvania, provides careful analysis of claims made by
politicians and other newsmakers. Its scope is national.
PolitiFact.com, run by the Tampa Bay Times, won a
Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for its “Truth-O-Meter” ratings of
politicians’ claims. It’s also national, but has links to 11
affiliated state fact-checking organizations.
WashingtonPost.com/blogs/fact-checker, written by
veteran Post columnist Glenn Kessler, awards “Pinocchios”
for political falsehoods. It’s national in scope.
UrbanLegends.about.com, operated by The New York
Times, debunks political and other misleading claims,
photos and videos nationally.
Snopes.com debunks all sorts of myths, including those
spread by viral emails.
VoteSmart.org features an interactive website where you
enter your address and the issues most important to you
and it responds with an array of the candidates for
national offices you are eligible to elect with their photos
on campaign posters. The larger the poster, the closer that
candidate’s positions are to your own.
All is not lost
But there is a silver
lining in the digital cloud.
For those who know how
to search and filter it, the
explosion of news and information can be empowering. Fact-checking websites are popping up like
mushrooms after a spring rain (see “Check the
facts,” right). The Web provides a vast reference
library where we can seek answers to our questions 24/7. We can find expanded and alternative
news and points of view that exceed the best-stocked newsstand in the world. We’ve never had
so much information at our fingertips. Nor so
To help you tell the difference, here’s how to
construct your own truth filter. It can be applied to
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