Stiffening the Spines of the Bobbleheads

I think DougJ has mentioned this, but in case he has not, I completely endorse this idea:

So instead I propose this modest little fix, first floated on Twitter in a post I sent out to Betsy Fischer, Executive Producer of Meet the Press, who never replies to anything I say. “Sadly, you’re a one-way medium,” I said to Fischer, “but here’s an idea for ya: Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday.”

I would extend it to the hosts, as well, although that might spur initial resistance. As some of you have noted before, it is amazing that Pardon the Interruption on ESPN has a fact check segment at the end of every single show, but the bobbleheads and their guests get to spew whatever nonsense they want, with little to no accountability.

And for us, it is a win/win. If people lie or make things up, there will be a publicized forum for correcting them. And once the guests start to realize they are going to be fact-checked, folks like President McCain might not be on every Sunday spewing bullshit.

And if you are not following Jay Rosen on twitter, you are missing out.






61 replies
  1. 1
    Max says:

    I think David Shuster should do this as a weekly segment. He’s got the chops, or as I said to him on Twitter, the gravitas.

  2. 2
    valdivia says:

    I agree with Max. But hey I think it will be a cold day in hell before they do this.

  3. 3
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    And once the guests start to realize they are going to be fact-checked

    Facts? you want facts?

    Facts are bad for bidness.

  4. 4

    I hate to be Mr. Cynical but………it won’t matter one bit. The smart politicos don’t flat out lie about stuff. They stretch the truth and take ‘defensible positions’. The aluminum tubes and Niger yellow cake lies had a hint of truth to them, and because of that the EmmEssEmm had no problem repeating these lies over and over again.

    The true motivation behind these television shows is to make money. You can’t do that by being a good journalist. You make $$ by getting President McCain to come on the show because people will tune in to see Pres. McCain.

    The best way to change the status quo is not to watch these shows at all. That, unfortunately, isn’t going to happen.

  5. 5
    Comrade Jake says:

    And once the guests start to realize they are going to be fact-checked, folks like President McCain might not be on every Sunday spewing bullshit.

    I seriously doubt it. These people dismiss fact-checking quite easily by characterizing it as “spot-checking”.

    You continue to subscribe to the notion that these people work in a reality-based environment Cole. Haven’t you learned anything?

  6. 6
    jeffreyw says:

    I think it was in the movie “Network”, a relatively ignorant anchor was interviewing a guest and the producer was whispering facts into his ear via the earplug. The anchor was able to use the assistance provided to add some depth to his observations and questions. I have no idea how much this happens on the cable shows these days, I’m sure it does happen. The path to better interviews lies in this method, the route may be different. It will almost certainly require inputs not from an omniscient producer but using the producer to collate data from many sources.

  7. 7
    Dan Robinson says:

    These guys aren’t in it for the truth, they are in it for the theater. It is all political theater, and policy is just an afterthought.

  8. 8
    Max says:

    @jeffreyw: Broadcast News.

    Network is the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” film.

  9. 9
    Punchy says:

    Stupid libtard! It’s only a lie if a Democrat says it. Otherwise, it’s a difference of opinion, he said-she said, or facts in dispute.

    Moran.

  10. 10
    Frank says:

    John,

    If they don’t fact check it, why don’t we? Someone(s) with talent and resources should devote their efforts towards Sunday bobblehead fact-checks. Not just the cursory ones spread all over the net now. A Media Matters for Sunday Chat-type endeavor.

  11. 11
    DougJ says:

    hate to be Mr. Cynical but………it won’t matter one bit. The smart politicos don’t flat out lie about stuff

    What about the crazy stuff Mary Matalin said about Bush’s 5% unemployment rate?

  12. 12
    kindness says:

    Who really has time to ‘follow’ anyone on Twitter? No disrespect intended, but get real! We have lives, they have their own time requirements & needs.

    Or is this place full of nothing but Trustafarians?

  13. 13
    bayville says:

    With regards to Pardon the Interruption its show has a $63 operating budget (outside of on-air talent), its a daily show and the producer/main fact checker (Tony Reale) also hosts his own daily TV show. Not to mention PTI is only 30 minutes long as compared to the 1-hour long format of MTP.

    Maybe the staffs of the two programs should swap for a month. Unfortunately for sports fans that would likely decrease the entertainment and information value of PTI.

  14. 14
    Paul in KY says:

    jeffreyw, I think that is how they all do it. Of course, they (the talking head) can either go with the advice they get thru their earbud or ignore it.

  15. 15
    Zifnab says:

    So instead I propose this modest little fix, first floated on Twitter in a post I sent out to Betsy Fischer, Executive Producer of Meet the Press, who never replies to anything I say.

    I see he’s once again confusing bugs with features.

  16. 16
    Sly says:

    If people want to know whether or not the information they’re being given is accurate, they can fact-check it themselves. The laziness of your average media personality is nothing when compared to the laziness of your average media consumer. David Gregory doing a fact-check segment won’t prevent people from wallowing in pig-fucking-ignorance, which is a trait that broadcast media, with few exceptions, fully endorses.

  17. 17
    MattF says:

    You mean, like, fact facts? Or just, y’know, facts.

  18. 18
    jeffreyw says:

    @Max: Noted, thanks.

  19. 19
    bystander says:

    Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post put Jay Rosen’s idea out to his readers who, in turn, offered ideas on how to implement it. Linkins shared those suggestions in his column. He got one from a veteran broadcaster that’s too long to insert here, but the critical observation was this:

    … let me remind you that all broadcast programming — radio and TV – is just the stuff we run between the commercials. Yes, I mean that as simply as I have stated it.

  20. 20
    jeffreyw says:

    @Paul in KY: I imagine you are correct, in that they all do it to some extent, I fear the huge egos of some anchors (Tweety) gets in the way. It would be interesting to know how much Rachel! uses producers that way, given that she has already done a heap of homework before an interview.

  21. 21

    @DougJ: If you asked Matalin to clarify her remarks, I am sure she will have a defensible position. You and I know it is bullshit, but the “fact checkers” hired by the Sunday shows won’t admit that it is. Instead, we will be told how her remarks could be read to be true.

    Knowing the MSM the fact checking might actually make things worse because they will give credence to the Republican’s lies.

    I think the best way to combat the R’s lies would be to teach Democrats to respond like Debbie Wasserman-Shultz does. She wipes the floor with the Republicans.

    If we are waiting for the Press to act like journalists we are going to be waiting a long time.

  22. 22
    bayville says:

    @Sly:
    Yeah, you wouldn’t want to overburden Gregory and his staff wit readin’ and double-checkin’ complicated stuff.
    I mean sum of ’em shows are on once a week and r an hour long.
    Good idea, leave it up to the citizuns – especially those 40 million or so who don’t have the internets and are worken 2 jobs just to pay them bills.
    Thems peeple have plenty of time & resources to looks up the intracacies of the health care reform legislation and such.

  23. 23
    gnomedad says:

    Is there any data on who actually watches MTP? I assume the wingers are all tuned in to Faux News. So what demographic are they playing to?

  24. 24
    bago says:

    You could do it in the style of “The Word” segment from Colbert. Just take the video, fact-check, and then in the video superimpose the facts on the screen when someone is lying.

  25. 25
    Paul in KY says:

    jeffreyw, I agree it would be interesting to know how much Ms. Maddow uses producers (in the context we were talking about up above).

    In sports, I think it is rampant (use of producers to ‘help’ the talking head or make them appear more erudite/funny than they actually are).

  26. 26
    jeffreyw says:

    @bago: I like this idea!

  27. 27
    Captain Goto says:

    Nah. Gah. Hah. Pen.

    That is all.

  28. 28
    gnomedad says:

    @bago:

    You could do it in the style of “The Word” segment from Colbert. Just take the video, fact-check, and then in the video superimpose the facts on the screen when someone is lying.

    There’s an amusing project Star Wars: Uncut in which the first film is sliced into 15-seconds segments which fans remake. I can imagine an MTP shadow blog which slices transcripts into convenient chunks for volunteers to fact-check. The Truth-o-Meter is another good model.

  29. 29
    Sasha says:

    The thing is John, there already is a public fact-check forum. Two of them in fact.

    They’re called The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

  30. 30
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @bystander:

    … let me remind you that all broadcast programming—radio and TV – is just the stuff we run between the commercials. Yes, I mean that as simply as I have stated it.

    That the folks on TV have contempt for their sheeplike audience is nothing new. What is new is that they don’t even bother to hide it anymore, nor do they feel that doing so is necessary. It is right out in the open for anybody to see. To paraphrase Molly Ivins, why did we work so hard to defeat the Soviet Union, only to turn around and become just like them?

  31. 31
    Keith G says:

    @jeffreyw:

    It would be interesting to know how much Rachel! uses producers that way

    I am sure she does as its a practical consideration, and her producers seem to be razor sharp; still, when I see her on other shows as a guest she is just as quick and right.

  32. 32
    Carwin says:

    My remedy would be to go back to the old 50s and 60s style of questioning guests, where journalists from specific fields grilled a politician for an hour. Here is an example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....8;index=57

    The problem with Meet the Press is that Gregory (and Russert) does all the questioning, and he’s typically ignorant about most issues. He knows the talking points, but that’s about it. You really need someone like Ezra Klein to question a politician about health care, because he can ask a substantive follow up based on his extensive knowledge. And he can a follow up in real time. The other problem is that Gregory wants to ask questions about every single issue out there, and he never sticks to one issue for very long. All someone has to do is wait out the clock and Gregory will change the subject.

    I wonder why Face the Nation and Meet the Press change into the model it is now? My guess is that the anchors were more concerned with being journo-celebrities and didn’t want to give up face time on the TV.

  33. 33
    Keith G says:

    @bago: Like VH 1 Pop Up Videos.

    Oh, me likey.

  34. 34
    MikeBoyScout says:

    Sounds like we could use a series of Sunday bobble head fact check pages. There is one site that has proven more than capable of such a task – Media Matters.

    Next is getting intelligent broadcasters to carry forward with the dissemination portion of the task.
    As someone above already noted, Madow is more than qualified, capable and would do a smash up job with it.

  35. 35
    Keith G says:

    @Carwin: Its personality driven reporting. I think that might be a Roone Arledge legacy. ABC’s This Week With David Brinkley became a “hit” and the rest followed suit.

  36. 36
    jrg says:

    The right got dialogue to swing their way by claiming that any fact that shows them in an unfavorable light is not “fair and balanced”.

    That’s the way to deal with the press – by working them over and undermining their credibility. When people come to realize that you cannot trust TV news, the news will start fact-checking again, because it will hurt their bottom line.

    One thing is for sure, the news will not start fact-checking itself out of an urge to act professional, or out of a feeling of responsibility to the American public. It’s pretty clear that they don’t think much of us – frankly, I don’t blame them.

  37. 37
    Sly says:

    @bayville:

    Yeah, you wouldn’t want to overburden Gregory and his staff wit readin’ and double-checkin’ complicated stuff.

    You misread my intention. David Gregory and his staff would have no business being on television if the people who watched Sunday morning chat shows were actually interested in accuracy. They aren’t. What they are interested in is hearing their favorite bobbleheads talk, and they will confer upon them a level of accuracy that is directly proportional to how much what is being said conforms to their preconceptions about the issue under discussion. The entire purpose of these shows is to basically put out soundbites for the Monday morning papers.

    Having Gregory do some quaint little spot at the end of every show, probably a week after the issue he’s checking has already been dropped down the memory hole, will not fix this. You greatly underestimate both the size of his audience, and the audience of Sunday morning shows in general, and overestimate the interest that audience has in any information that does not comport with their unexamined biases.

    Good idea, leave it up to the citizuns – especially those 40 million or so who don’t have the internets and are worken 2 jobs just to pay them bills.
    Thems peeple have plenty of time & resources to looks up the intracacies of the health care reform legislation and such.

    Those “citizuns” aren’t watching Meet the Press to begin with. Sunday shows have a more wealthy viewership than nightly news broadcasts (and a far smaller one). Even if that were not the case, you don’t need lots of money to have access to reliable information. It’s fundamentally a question of a person’s critical thinking skills and their desire to be informed. If you want to know something that’s in the public record, there are few barriers to actually knowing it.

  38. 38
    Bad Horse's Filly says:

    Gawd this is a depressing thread.

    OT: This is on my radio right now…haven’t heard it in forever

    Riding on the Metro

  39. 39
    jrg says:

    It’s fundamentally a question of a person’s critical thinking skills and their desire to be informed.

    Drill Baby Drill! Thanks but no thanks! Death Panels!

    If you want to know something that’s in the public record, there are few barriers to actually knowing it.

    The biggest of which is not wanting to know it.

  40. 40
    Violet says:

    They should fact check MTP and run the fact-checking on the Today Show on Wednesday. The Today Show has a big audience. It might even turn into must-see TV, if it were done entertainingly and right.

  41. 41
    Sly says:

    That’s the way to deal with the press – by working them over and undermining their credibility. When people come to realize that you cannot trust TV news, the news will start fact-checking again, because it will hurt their bottom line.

    People don’t trust TV news already. Haven’t for a while. Yet this has given news producers little to no impetus to change the status quo. This led me, initially, to two possible conclusions. Either news broadcasters have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, or they have no interest in upholding the public trust by reporting accurate information.

    Given how money-soaked the TV business has become, both for networks and their personalities (who, aside from their salaries, get to charge speaking fees to audiences who want to hear from “influential people”), it was pretty obvious which one of those conclusions was erroneous.

  42. 42

    […] as John Cole notes… And for us, it is a win/win. If people lie or make things up, there will be a publicized […]

  43. 43
    Svensker says:

    @jrg:

    If you want to know something that’s in the public record, there are few barriers to actually knowing it.
    The biggest of which is not wanting to know it.

    I’d say the biggest barrier is having heard of the issue in the first place. Or knowing that what you have been told is bullshit. Most people trust what they hear on TV or the radio.

  44. 44
    0whole1 says:

    @Sasha:

    My thoughts exactly — with the little addendum/assertion that fact checking — or at least the funny gotchas — is *why* the Daily Show is so popular. It’d be nice to see actual-type news realize & capitalize on this too.

  45. 45
    Kyle Moore says:

    I’m going to pile on with everyone else who has pointed out that fact checking and the fear of will not in the slightest reduce the presence of the worst liars on the tv, nor will it give them moment’s pause to stop lying when they show up.

    The fact of the matter is, fact checking simply doesn’t have an impact, not unless it is presented in a comprehensive narrative (ie. Al Gore is a serial liar). It’s not the facts that are important; it’s the race to control and form the debate that matters. What matters in modern political discourse is not what is true, but what sells, which is one of the reasons why liberal policies face such a harsh obstacle after eight years of conservative irresponsibility has done so much damage.

    Think Death Panels. Not true, there’s no way in hell it could ever be true, and anyone with more than two braincells, if they didn’t actively choose to believe in death panels, would see that they were not true. The claim has been fact checked up and down, debunked from here to Alaska and back. The problem is, even though “Death Panels” as a term is no longer used, the underlying sentiment, that any proposed HCR offered by Democrats, from single payer to maybe just a handful of subsidies will in some way put Americans in a position where healthcare rationing will result in the government choosing who gets to live and who gets to die. It’s one of the many driving concepts behind the irrational tea-party movement.

    Extrapolate that to left of center policies in general and their fate when confronted with Republicans and all talking heads to the right of center. The Right has foregone any pretense of caring about fact. In fact, I think Al Franken predicted what we are seeing right now in his book “Lies and the lying liars who tell them”. When speaking of the Lewinsky scandal, he pointed out that the GOP was sending a message to Clinton’s would be successor Al Gore; Elect Gore, and we’ll nuke the living fuck out of him just like we did the last guy.” This is the first Democratic president since then, and I think the entire first year of Obama’s presidency has been characterized by that GOP scorched Earth policy.

    So every left of center policy we see for the next three to seven years will be evil, Nazi-inspired, enslaving, and could possibly kill you if not shit on your values, God, race, etc. Compared to imagery like Death Panels, and Nazism, and secret Muslim, Manchurian candidates without birth-certificates, having someone once a week read on tv how technically all of this is lies is simply not effective. You’re trying to overturn deeply embedded visceral imagery with a nasally voice reading down an itemized list.

    And if I wanted to inject power vs. populism at this point, I would be writing probably another five paragraphs I don’t have time for so I’ll just end it at this.

  46. 46
    Brachiator says:

    @Blue Neponset:

    The true motivation behind these television shows is to make money. You can’t do that by being a good journalist.

    Partly true. These shows also exist to feed the egos of the guests and the hosts. Journalists want to show that they can rub elbows with politicians, politicians want to be on TeeVee.

    The best way to change the status quo is not to watch these shows at all. That, unfortunately, isn’t going to happen.

    These shows cost practically nothing to produce. It ain’t like they are paying actors or even reality TV goons. The profit margin is large enough to deal with a large drop in viewership even if a viewer boycott could be organized (which is highly unlikely).

  47. 47
    Mouse Tolliver says:

    @jeffreyw:

    I think it was in the movie “Network”, a relatively ignorant anchor was interviewing a guest and the producer was whispering facts into his ear via the earplug. The anchor was able to use the assistance provided to add some depth to his observations and questions.

    Yeah, but later on in the movie the suits fired most of their real reporters so they could give their empty-headed himbo anchor a raise and turn him into Tom Brokaw. Broadcast News was about the decline of TV journalism. And it accurately predicted everything that’s going on today.

  48. 48

    @Brachiator:

    These shows cost practically nothing to produce. It ain’t like they are paying actors or even reality TV goons.

    Revenue is the issue, not cost. The higher the ratings the higher the revenue. If NBC thought that a football pregame show could get better ratings during MTP’s timeslot then there would be a football pregame show in MTP’s timeslot.

    Also, things didn’t get the way they are by accident. The status quo benefits the MSM because they get ratings/$$$. Right now they get those ratings/$$$ without a fact checker. What added benefit do they get from employing a fact checker? My answer is little to none.

    In fact, a fact checker might hurt the bottom line because guests will appear on shows without fact checkers and that will affect ratings. Most people would rather watch Dick Cheney lie than watch some Dem Congressman tell the truth. This is the world we live in.

  49. 49
    mcc says:

    Question: Why expect Meet the Press itself to do this? Why not just go ahead and fact-check it, add subtitles / VH1 bubbles throughout, and post it to Youtube each week? MSNBC would probably try to shut it down but hey, if YuGiOh Abridged can survive, then so could this.

  50. 50

    @bystander:

    Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post put Jay Rosen’s idea out to his readers who, in turn, offered ideas on how to implement it. Linkins shared those suggestions in his column. He got one from a veteran broadcaster that’s too long to insert here, but the critical observation was this:

    … let me remind you that all broadcast programming—radio and TV – is just the stuff we run between the commercials. Yes, I mean that as simply as I have stated it.

    This is a fundamental problem, and it extends far beyond network news. Free market distribution of a product does not work if the ultimate consumer of that product is not also the person who pays for it. We see it all over the place. One of the problems (among many) with the employer-based system of providing health insurance is that the consumers of the health care don’t fork over the money for it, and so their interests are not given sufficient consideration in the purchase of the insurance.

    The model of TV in which advertisers pay for the shows means that it is their interest that is being served. You get what you pay for is a very valuable adage, and, with TV news, we pay nothing for it, and get what we deserve.

    At this point, I’m not sure that there is a viable alternative model. HBO does very well providing high quality entertainment, but it’s still very much a niche product. I’m not sure how you could get workable business model for news on pay TV; the idea that we get it for free is now too dominant.

    Conceptually, the fix for health insurance is easy. It doesn’t work as a product traded freely in the market, so we go to a non-market solution. TV is harder.

  51. 51
    Brachiator says:

    @Blue Neponset:

    RE: These shows cost practically nothing to produce. It ain’t like they are paying actors or even reality TV goons.

    Revenue is the issue, not cost. The higher the ratings the higher the revenue. If NBC thought that a football pregame show could get better ratings during MTP’s timeslot then there would be a football pregame show in MTP’s timeslot.

    Actually, demographics is king, and return on investment. And I suppose that as soon as all those antiquated FCC rules about news and public affairs programs are done away with, then the networks will indeed plug in a football pre-game show in MTP’s timeslot.

    Also, things didn’t get the way they are by accident. The status quo benefits the MSM because they get ratings/$$$.

    By your own examples, the networks don’t care about the status quo. They care about whatever brings profits. Since large segments of the public don’t care, and the few remaining real journalists can’t make a difference, then there is no reason to change anything.

    On the other hand, if no one watched these shows, they would probably be replaced with infomercials.

  52. 52
    kay says:

    I don’t know about the idea. I just love that he wrote “who never replies to anything I say”.

  53. 53
    jl says:

    I will send this post’s suggestion to the dysfunctional big corporate media organs, and I will also expect no reply. But we all should do it. There is an epidemic of Making Stuff/Shit Up among the media pundit class, and they never get called on it. Maybe our e-mails cite ESPN as an example.

    Outrageous scenes occur because of this. I remember watching the surreal scene of George Will trying to smear all consensus global warming research on the basis of the ridiculous stolen e-mail scandal. And Will has his own, much more serious scandal about mistatements on global warming research in his own columns. Which he refused to correct, and from what I read, stopped official corrections being printed in the WaPo by throwing tantrums. Yet this two-faced creep gets a platform for throwing out smug self-righteous smears based on much less serious issues. That is our Very Serious Media today.

    Chris Matthews clowning himself by raving about kung-fu airline terrorists are minor issues in comparison.

  54. 54
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    It doesn’t work as a product traded freely in the market, so we go to a non-market solution. TV is harder.

    So are you looking for a direct consumer-producer model, like a fee-for-content model, or something like the BBC where the govt. puts up the money and we all pay for it indirectly? It would be fun to see the latter just for the sheer entertainment value of seeing the teabaggers shriek “ZOMG! Soshulism Eleventy-One! ! !” in tones so shrill and high pitched they would reach frequencies even dogs can’t hear.

  55. 55

    I used to follow Jay Rosen on Press Think, but he hasn’t posted anything since 4/09 so…

    I DO NOT fritter, er twitter

  56. 56
    Frankie says:

    I always thought it would make good political theater if CNN, or FOX for that matter, would offer a 1 hour time slot to both Media Matters and whatever the conservative counterpart is each week. They would fill the same time slot, and take turns making points of criticism about the other side. This would prevent them from simply preaching to the choir in that conservatives who wanted to hear conservative gripes about liberal misinformation would need to also sit through the liberal gripes about conservative misinformation. And vice versa. It would also prevent claims of liberal or conservative bias which would occcur if one side dominated a forum.

    Let people decide for themselves who’s more full of it. One thing i’ve noticed is that when conservatives complain, it’s usually about what emphasis is given to a positive or negative story. When liberals complain, it’s usually about conservatives just making sh*t up.

    In the 168 hours each week of telecasting so called news, you’d think they could fit in an hour of each side fact checking the other. That is, if they really cared that we dealt in truths.

  57. 57
    Garrigus Carraig says:

    The MSM is part of the ruling class. The ruling class thrives on the ignorance of the populace. So it’s in their interest to feed trivial, false, or conflicting information to their audience.

    A fact-checking apparatus such as the one(s) suggested could feed into the agenda of conflicting information, but may fail a cost/benefit analysis. Most people are not like the people in this room, whose knee-jerk reaction to all assertions is skepticism, so it’s probably easier to spew falsehoods than conflicting information.

  58. 58
    ominira says:

    @J. Michael Neal: How about paying for news from the proceeds of a UK-style TV license? That could work.

  59. 59
    ominira says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I knew I should have read the whole thread before posting :).

  60. 60
    CalD says:

    Funny, I was just thinking the other day that while cable “news” channel programmers seem to universally assume widespread distaste among their viewing audience for calm, reasoned, information-rich, fact-based analysis of political news and current events, sports channel programmers apparently do not. And they seem to do OK with it. What’s up with that?

  61. 61
    bartkid says:

    >I said to Fischer, “but here’s an idea for ya: Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday.”

    Here’s another idea I want someone to run with:
    For every elected office holder spouting on health care reform have a chyron stating how much they have received from each insurance company.

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