Public Editor

June 11, 2014

Readers expect journalists to fact-check politicians

It’s easier than ever before for politicians to take their unfiltered message directly to the people. But while those direct conduits are great in some ways — but that also means the messages bypass the fact-checking filter. Journalists need to step up.

An emailer reminded me this morning of how much readers demand one of the bedrock principles of journalism: “Please tell the powers that be there at the Star that their fact-checking politicians … is of greatest public service and how much we appreciate it.”

She also underlined something I’ve heard untold times from readers through the years: “It is difficult for one person to check the validity of statements and decisions made by politicians, even though we don't believe them.”

She wrote that fact-checking “calls to account elected politicians who twist the truth to their own benefit.”

There’s not one word I can disagree with here. As readers have often told me, they have neither the access nor the resources to run down the truth behind every politicking slogan they hear. And unfortunately, all the bad information on the Internet has in some ways made it harder than ever to separate truth from obfuscation.

It’s the journalist’s primary role to seek out the truth and present it objectively. Cutting through spin and extraneous facts should be job No. 1.

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