I view the rise of so-called “fact-checking” in the mainstream corporate news with mixed emotions. First of all, it is nice to see them, you know, doing their jobs for a change. But second of all, why do they need a fact-checking column? Does this mean that they’re not, um, checking the facts in their other news articles?
The latest exercise in fact-checking has been launched by the CBC in connection with the BC election. There’s a great deal of hype surrounding the BC election, because it looks as though a far-right Social Credit-turned-”Liberal” Party ally of Stephen Harper is about to be trounced by the purportedly socialist NDP. I say purportedly because, among other things, the top advisors to the two parties recently collaborated to establish a “public affairs” firm, Kool Topp & Guy, an action which I think hints at the unpublicized convergence of political opinion between the two parties. Kool Topp & Guy offers the following rather painful analogy by way of describing its founders’ unmatched skill:
top-notch talent at every position – our speedy sniper swooping in from left wing (Topp), our playmaking centre who can be counted on to win the key draws at either end of the rink (Guy) and our right-winger with the cannonading slapshot that puts the puck in the net every time (Kool).
I wonder how they decided who got to be the center.
Anyways, I digress. CBC has started its fact-checking column, and the likelihood that there will not be any significant difference between a Liberal government and an NDP government is, seemingly, not on the agenda. Instead, CBC has gratifyingly if perplexingly turned to a lie which was started by the Liberals a week or so ago, and it has since been repeated, straightfaced, by a legion of reporters who you would really think ought to be old enough to know better:
We got six consecutive credit downgrades in the 1990s.
That’s premier Christy Clark, launching the rumor. She at least knows it’s a lie, because she started it. Whether or not the journalists were competent enough, I don’t know. At least one of them was obviously uncomfortable enough repeating it that they decided to launch a “fact-checking” column. I can’t help but notice that the CBC has repeated the original lie at least twice — here and here — without batting an eye.
So I guess in the modern news business, fact-checking is just something you get around to… eventually. But not before you’ve published the story. Oh, no.
In this case, the truth is that B.C.’s credit rating was actually downgraded twice under the NDP. Between 1997 and 1999, different combinations of the four bond rating agencies downgraded BC’s credit rating, twice. Now, you might think that actually adds up to at best two credit downgrades, not “six consecutive” ones.
Speaking of which, it’s the following rampant editorializing which got me ticked with the effort. It seems that the anti-NDP bias is so pervasive in the news media that even when they’re printing “fact-checking” columns defending the NDP from Liberal fictions, they still can’t help injecting a little dig about how the NDP are horrible money managers (unlike, say, Liberal premier Clark, who has yet to balance a budget):
While the 1990s is a decade the New Democrats hope voters forget, it’s one the B.C. Liberals want them to remember.
Actually, given that the whole excuse for this “fact-checking” column was that the Liberals are lying about the NDP’s financial record, it would seem as though the 1990s is a decade the Liberals are hoping voters forget.
Which shouldn’t be too hard, since voters have 90% of the news media eagerly helping them out in this task.
CBC then closes with a statement that itself is in need of a fact-checking review:
It wasn’t until 2006, after the fallout from 9-11 and the U.S. housing crisis, that Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government earned B.C. an AAA credit rating.
Hm. Well, I take back what I said about reporters being old enough to remember what happened 15 years ago.Tweet