Meet the Facts: Time to Start Fact-Checking the Sunday Talk Shows


Jay Rosen, the NYU journalism professor and new media innovator, has been agitating for some fact-driven reforms to the Sunday political talk shows. This Sunday, he got some traction.

Rosen suggests a weekly accountability segment, to check the pols and pundits who populate the pulpit on Sundays. "Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday," he advised. Then the factually challenged would face consequences -- done right, this kind of segment could create its own news on Wednesday -- and repeat offenders might even lose their status as repeat guests. Rosen explains:

Now I don't contend this would solve the problem of the Sunday shows, which is structural. But it might change the dynamic a little bit. Whoever was [BS]ing us more could expect to hear about it from Meet the Press staff on Wednesday. The midweek fact check (in the spirit of might, over time, exert some influence on the speakers on Sunday. At the very least, it would guide the producers in their decisions about whom to invite back.

This Sunday, Politico's Michael Calderone followed up on Rosen's idea in a thorough, 1,740-word article, surveying reactions from TV figures and new media people. The coverage matters because without it, Rosen -- just like the Sunday show audience -- has very little dialogue with the Sunday shows. (He complained about this in his original essay, noting that MTP's executive producer "never replies" to anything he writes, despite maintaining a presence on Twitter. An ABC reporter briefly replied to his idea.) Yet once an article was in the works, MTP not only responded, it issued a statement from host David Gregory praising the idea and committing to discuss it with his staff:

The [fact-checking] suggestion by... Rosen kicked around Twitter and the blogosphere with such force that the show's host, David Gregory, said in a statement to POLITICO that it was a "good idea" and his staff is "going to talk about it."

That's a big shift from refusing to respond at all. And while it's an improvement, it also shows how these programs tend to be more responsive to other members of the media than to their audience. (Blogger Nisha Chittal tackles that angle today.)

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