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Is the Media Ready to Stop Letting Politicians Lie?

In a new revision of the news organization's 2003 code of ethics, NPR commits itself not just to finding “balance” in its stories, but to prioritizing truth.

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When politicians are allowed to lie to the public and journalists don't bother to correct them, we all know that bad things happen. We remember the run-up to the wars, when major media outlets uncritically reported the Bush administration's assertions as truth. As Greenwald pointed out, “The most damaging sin of this stenographic model isn’t laziness — the failure to subject false statements to critical, investigative scrutiny — although that is part of it. The most damaging sin is that it’s propagandistic: it converts official assertions and claims from the most powerful into Truth, even when those assertions and claims are baseless or false.”

Now, maybe NPR's move toward checking the facts of politicians and others with power won't swing an election or prevent another war. But it is a very important start toward putting the focus of journalism, especially public service journalism, back where it belongs—telling the truth, and calling those in power on their lies.  

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

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