Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toledo Blade fails to 'fact-check' Obama claims

Yesterday on WSPD, we talked about the interview our local paper, The Blade, did with President Barack Obama in advance of the G20 Summit. One of the questions had to do with the future of the newspaper industry and Obama said:

"I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding."

However, in the same interview, Obama uttered a two bald-faced lies:

"When I came into office, we were losing 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen so that small businesses and large businesses alike couldn't borrow. You couldn't get an auto loan even if you had good credit. People were losing their homes at an extraordinary pace."(emphasis mine)

As this chart from the Wall Street Journal shows, people were buying cars and getting car loans in January when he was sworn in (though the numbers were down), yet the editors and reporters never questioned this statement.

They never 'fact-checked' the claim. And when a president compliments your industry on doing just that, don't you think you should?

Here's another 'fact' that didn't get checked: "losing 700,000 jobs per month."

According to CNNMoney.com, job losses in November 2008 were 584,000 and job losses in December 2008 were 524,000. Total losses for the months of September and October 2008 were 792,000, so clearly neither month was '700,000.'

U.S. News and World Report says that the January 2009 job losses were 598,000, while the New York Times reported February 2009 job losses of 651,000.

So when the president said we were losing 700,000 jobs per month when he came into office, was he lying? Or just, perhaps, exaggerating?

Regardless, why was there no 'fact-checking' of his numbers and claims?

The "fact" is that much of the checking occurring today is being done by the blogosphere, just like I have with these two examples.

It was the blogosphere that fact-checked and exposed the faked memos about George W. Bush's National Guard service which was reported by Dan Rather and later became known as Rathergate.

It's been bloggers and Glenn Beck who've exposed the extreme positions of the various czars appointed by Obama. And there are terrific websites that focus on investigative reporting. One of them, Texas Watchdog, not only 'watches' government, but helps train bloggers and reporters so they can learn how to "uncover waste, fraud and corruption in state and local governments."

One reason many newspapers are seeing a decline in circulation and many television news networks see their numbers falling is because of this very 'fact.' They've stopped 'reporting' and started spending too much time 'putting stories in context' for us - telling us what we should think about events rather than reporting the facts so we can decide on our own. As a result, people have turned to other outlets, like blogs, for additional information so they can make an informed decision and not rely upon some talking head reading from a teleprompter.

Then there are events like Wolf Blitzer's appearance on the Celebrity Jeopardy charity tournament. Blitzer is the anchor for CNN's The Situation Room and the lead political reporter for CNN. Yet despite his vast experience and knowledge, he finished the easy-question Jeopardy episode in the hole - significantly - with a score of minus $4,600.

Is this the type of person Obama thinks we need to 'trust' to put news stories into context for us?

As the examples I've documented above prove, it is arrogant and pretentious to think that only the main stream media can provide the type of news coverage that fulfills the function of a free and independent press and helps keep our governments in check.


James said...

Maggie, do you really think the intelligentsia at Superior and Orange would ever dare to fact check Obama's statements on anything? That's why Obama loves newspapers. Almost all of them are biased to him and he gets a free pass on anything he says. Lies included.

Norma said...

Great work Maggie--I've linked.

Timothy W Higgins said...


Even the ombudsman, Jack Lessenberry failed to fact check over the weekend when he said that former Pres. Bush was not booed during a State of the Union speech. It took me less than 30 seconds to find his error on the 2005 video on the RealClearPolitics website, where it can in fact be heard:

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

On a positive note, less high school graduates can read and comprehend effectively.

Looks like a perfectly symbiotic relationship to me. . .

-Sepp said...

James, you're right on target about the newspapers...maybe thats why they're slated for some bailout money now too!

I wouldn't expect Block to question Obama's "facts" since he was probably terribly uncomfortable after wetting his pants when "god" walked into the room and was unable to concentrate.

Google Analytics Alternative