Telling the truth ... once

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Following up on my post this morning about combating misinformation by eliminating the incentives for lying, another stumbling block is that a lot of reporters and news organizations seem to think it is adequate to tell the truth once.

That is, if a politician runs around saying something that isn't true -- like that she said "thanks but no thanks" to "bridge to nowhere" funding -- many news organizations will debunk the false claim once. But then they'll go right on quoting the false claim when it is made again and again, without bothering to point out that it is false. And when challenged on this, they'll point out that they did debunk it, three weeks ago.

That isn't good enough, for reasons that should be incredibly obvious. It isn't good enough to tell the truth once.

Today, for example, the New York Times' David Leonhardt explains that "President Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying."

That's great -- really, it is. But it will mean very little if the Times does not include that fact in every subsequent story in which it quotes Republicans blaming Obama for running up deficits.

The Times told the truth today -- and many other news organizations quoted it. Now let's see if they're satisfied telling the truth once, or if they are committed to telling the truth every time.

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