Is it appropriate for news organizations to "fact check" books?

And if it is appropriate, should we expect this fact-checking to be applied across the board?

I ask this because the AP is dedicating straight news reporters and researchers to the task of fact-checking Sarah Palin’s book, which seems to be a horrendous idea to me. I say this for several reasons:

[li]Literary or political criticism is better handled by critics or commentators, not by news reporters. There already is a perception of bias in reporting, this would not help the issue.[/li][li]I cannot recall that other books by politicians were fact-checked in this manner. Did the AP check either of President Obama’s books so extensively?[/li][li]By saying this I do not mean to say that the book cannot be checked or that this cannot be reported upon - if a critic has a noteworthy criticism of the book that can certainly be newsworthy. But the AP’s direct involvement in the check without applying that across the board is unseemly.[/li][/ul]


Target rich environment.

They are fact-checking everything in the book because they expect to find plenty of newsworthy material by fact-checking the book.

Sarah Palin is news, right? Or should the media ignore her?

If there’s such a liberal bias to the media, maybe Sarah and her co-author should expect to have their book subjected to a little extra scrutiny, and maybe taken a few extra weeks to fact check the book themselves.

Yes, it’s actually the JOB of the news media to do these kinds of things. It’s not only ok, it’s required.

Everybody should be encouraged to fact-check everybody. It’s a great way to reduce bullshit.

Not me, though. I’m always right.

[quote=“Mr.Moto, post:1, topic:518029”]

[li]Literary or political criticism is better handled by critics or commentators, not by news reporters.[/li][/quote]

This isn’t literary criticism. You may have a better point about commentators, but then again, there seems to be more demand for fact checking of politicians’ writings, speeches and debates than ever.

Yes, we already know what Sarah Palin thinks. :wink:

Dreams from My Father was released in 1995, and at the time, it was not expected to be the million-seller than Palin’s book probably will be. So I think we can safely assume it was not fact checked. In any case it didn’t have much policy content and was not a candidate biography in the sense Audacity of Hope and Going Rogue are.
I’m googling to see if I can find a similar fact check of Audacity of Hope, but at the moment I’m being drowned out by right wing bloggers asking ‘did the AP fact check Obama’s books?’ His speeches do get fact checked, however.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “Meh.”

Arguably, Palin’s got a reputation for playing a bit loose with the truth, so I can see the point of view of the AP: a book full of facts, if they’re lies, is going to be newsworthy. And since Obama doesn’t really have such a rep, I can see making an editorial decision to not devote scare resources to that effort.

A better illustration would be Hilary “Sniper Fire” Clinton. What efforts have been made for her?

Bolding added above.

FWIW, I doubt very much that Sarah Palin’s book requires literary criticism. She is not being published as a writer of literature but as a political figure writing about her life and her viewpoints. And she is someone who wants to be considered for higher office.

I am curious: Do you imagine that Obama’s books are full of mistakes that are quietly being passed over?

You kind of answer your own question with that one with the "sniper fire’ reference. Hillary couldn’t say what she had for lunch without getting fact checked.

Obama published both of his books before he was a Presidential candidate or a nationally known figure. His first was published before he was even a politician.

They’ve both been researched endlessly for factual accuracy. There just hasn’t been anything that anyone’s been able to find in them that’s dishonest or inaccurate.

I don’t see how this kind of whining is a relevant to anything anyway. If the AP didn’t fact check Obama’s books, does that Palin didn’t lie in her own?

Absolutely it is appropriate and whinging on about it when it hits one’s own side of the political spectrum is absurd. And no, it isn’t going to be applied “across the board” since not every political book (or book) is interesting enough to do so.

Errr, horrendous idea?

It’s done all the time. Called political reporting.

Fact checking a politician’s book is not literary criticism, and political books are precisely the sort of document that political reporters delve into. A fact checking of interesting books and other writings by said reporters is part of their role. Of course interesting and politician’s book are not two phrases that go well together.

As for recalling… seems to me that every time a big political book comes out, from controversial figures, it gets read for “gotcha” items by all and sundry. Selective memory I suggest on your part.

There’s nothing at all unseemly about the effort, it’s positively absurd partisanship to suggest so.

American conservatives need to stop whinging on all the time about press bias. It’s boring and tedious.

The AP fact check is neither political or literary criticism. It’s journalistic criticism.

By the way, the AP does fact check Obama’s speeches, and has not bothered with books by most Republicans either. It’s a question of what the public is interested in.

Although a good idea in theory, maybe not so much in practice. In order to do this properly (ie, without bias) it needs to be done even-handedly, across the political spectrum. I’m not sure that there are enough journalistic resources out there to do that. Where do we draw the line?

I’m certainly not worked up at all about this, but I’m just pointing out that sometimes what seems obvious and fair might not end up being practical.

Had the press been doing their job, they’da fact checked Bush’s lies in the leadup to the Iraq conquest. Then we wouldn’t be in the trillion dollar hole that created for America.
Oh well, better late than never.

They are even-handed. They fact check Al Gore’s books, and Obama’s speeches, but don’t bother with Newt Gingrich’s books because nobody cares. They can’t FC every political book that comes out, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it for the more significant ones.

This is classic deflection on Palin’s part, which is, in turn, a classic characteristic of her Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Instead of acknowledging or even attempting to confront the fact that her book is full of demonstrably false claims, she tries to attack the AP for reporting it. Notice she isn’t actually denying anything the AP reported, though.

This is her MO for everything – always attack the messenger. It seems to work pretty well for her too. Her fans lap it up every time. I thought conservatives were supposed to have contempt for the victim mentality, but they never get tired of crying for poor, persecuted Sarah.
The fact that we’re even having this debate is proof that her strategy worked. Notice how nobody is actually talking about the provable lies in her book?

Do you have a cite for this? I saw what Sarah Palin said, and I see that Fox News is repeating it, but do we have anything from the AP confirming it? And confirming that they are using reporters, and not actual fact-checkers or researchers or something?

In any case, yes, I think it’s a great idea to fact check her book. I have no problem with them fact checking any book, or every book. I mean, someone fact checked Hillary’s speech about being under sniper fire or whatever. Any claim by a politician or lawyer should prolly be looked into. Cops too.

Fact checking her book IS straight news reporting anyway.

Notice how nobody is being prevented from opening a thread about the “provable lies in her book”. Be my guest.

Personally, I have about ZERO interest in anything she has to say.

Reporting is done by reporters. Fact checkers are used to check background facts in someone else’s reporting.

By the way, I don’t think anyone has linked to the piece yet, so here it is.

Should be, anyway. The press, whether print, television or radio, has become a great big steno pool for politicians. “Objectivity” consists, apparently, of having two people with opposite viewpoints on or quoted, as being evenly authoritative, even if one is from the biology faculty of Harvard and the other is a nutcase with a creationist blog.

I’d be perfectly happy if the press started doing their job and calling out factual error and/or lies, no matter which party is doing it.

Why does it have to be across the political spectrum to be fair?

It seems to me the criteria a news organization should take for fact checking a book is the newsworthiness of the book, a judgment of how many incorrect statements of fact they think they are likely to find, and a judgment on how newsworthy those incorrect statements of fact are likely to be.

It seems to me that in Palin’s case we have a very newsworthy book. We have good reason to believe that the book will contain multiple factual errors. And we have good reason to believe that those factual errors could be highly newsworthy. And so going through the entire book looking for factual errors seems like a way to generate news that people would be interested in hearing about.

News organizations are businesses. They only cultivate an aura of impartiality because they believe it is a way to increase their audience.