It’s been a tough week for the fact-checkers.
A beleaguered fact-check reporter at USA Today has been foundering for a few days as a result of a factually inaccurate entry. He was taking the role of the victim — after somewhat correcting the story — and now he is being defended by an editor from Snopes, who tells us that the USA Today fact-checker being incorrect is a sign that we should be impressed by his work. Yes, seriously.
For a time, it seemed like one of the easier jobs in journalism was that of the fact-checker. The arrival of Joe Biden already had the press excited about taking the next 4 years off, and the adjunct division of the media complex was looking at little more than shaming any critics of the president, as they burnished his image. Glenn Kessler, at the Washington Post, even announced how he was suspending the Biden Lie Counter — because it was not as vital as it had been under Donald Trump.
But, then Joe complicated things for them as he managed to complicate nearly everything on a global scale. This week, Kessler offered up a wan defense of Biden’s Afghan bungle by simply repeating White House talking points. Then we saw the apathy of this troupe, as they refused to do some basic fact checks; Biden cited “millions” of women would be denied abortions in Texas, when under 55,000 were performed there last year, and Brian Stelter, of course, was not corrected on his claim that Fox News had no reporters in Kabul.
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The biggest snafu, however, came when USA Today’s truth-detecting guru Daniel Funke took on the story of Joe Biden offending the families of the fallen Marines from Kabul, when he rudely checked his watch during the return of the bodies to U.S. soil. A viral video of Biden’s action was floating through social media, but Funke “corrected” the story by using a favored technique of these experts — he interpreted the facts.
The initial report was declared Partly False as a result of very creative viewing. By relying on a solitary video where Biden was lightly portrayed, Funke’s conclusion said Biden checked his watch once, at the end of the ceremony. Now, most would say this actually confirms the story, but since, in Funke’s estimation, it was at the close of things, it did not count…somehow.
In order to get to this assessment, Funke committed a major flaw, in that he disregarded the impressions of no fewer than members of four different, Gold Star families who detailed seeing the president repeatedly checking his watch, to their dismay and outrage. These testimonies were on a variety of news outlets, including The Washington Post. Ultimately, USA Today had to issue a correction, with Funke rewriting content. Despite this glaring error, they still attempted to help Biden, as the assessment was changed not to Correct but to Missing Context.
As a result, Funke turned to social media to not actually plead his case, but to impugn those who might take exception with his actions.
It’s easy to dunk on journalists when we get things wrong. I get it – to many, we’re just another name on a screen. But behind that screen is a person trying to do their best.
Sure, Funke wrote a piece of agitprop that insulted the families of fallen soldiers, but you people responding to him on Twitter are out of line — he is the real victim here. And as you see in the above tweet, coming to his aid is Jordan Liles, an editor at Snopes. This, however, didn’t exactly help things.
It almost feels ridiculous to explain this to someone like Jordan, but when we expect the job of all journalists is delivering the facts, the hallmark of an exceptional journalist is getting those facts correct. This speaks so much to what is wrong with modern journalism. They resent when they are called out for their blatant errors and bias, all while demanding they be praised in the face of those same errors.
If getting the facts correct was the true goal of these people, they would be happy to get corrected, and gleefully put out the accurate information. Instead, they act offended when called out, and become defensive when you demand corrective action.
This is a reaction that arrives when they operate not on getting the record corrected, but on an agenda. It’s exposed when they react this way — once the truth is presented to them and they are asked to do actually their job. It tell you everything you need to know, when even the fact-checkers become offended when presented with the facts.