Krugman Schools Newsweek Publisher on Fact-Checking
On Sunday, Krugman pointed out the false information in Niall Ferguson’s controversial Newsweekcover story titled “Hit the Road Barack: Why We Need a New President.” Krugman was especially frustrated by Ferguson’s manipulation of a Congressional Budget Office report, as he falsely claimed that Obama’s Affordable Care Act would increase the national deficit.
Krugman wrote today that this “was unethical on his part – but Newsweek is also at fault, because this is the sort of thing it could and should have refused to publish.”
Now, I don’t expect a publication that responds to daily or weekly news to do New Yorker-style fact checking. But it should demand that anyone who writes for it document all of his or her factual assertions – and an editor should check that documentation to see that it actually matches what the writer says.
That’s how it works at the Times, or at least how it works for me. I supply a list of sources with each column submission; for yesterday’s piece it looked like this:
$4.3 trillion: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/numbers/displayatab.cfm?Docid=3301&DocTyp... lines 2, 3 and 5
Ryan cuts: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3723 (I count his Medicaid cuts relative to current policy, not policy including Obamacare)
Disproportionate benefits at top: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/numbers/displayatab.cfm?Docid=3337&DocTyp...
Each time I send in a column draft, the copy editor runs quickly through the citations, making sure that they match what I assert. Sometimes the editor feels that I go further than the source material actually justifies; in that case we either negotiate a rewording, or drop the assertion altogether. Oh, and weasel-wording isn’t acceptable – implying something the facts don’t support is no more OK than stating it outright.
And despite all this, sometimes an error slips through. In that case, the response is a print correction.