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

I wasn’t talking about this board, I was talking about the news media and the national dialogue in general.

With people who have aspirations to the presidency?

I’d be absolutely delirious with joy.

The Dallas Morning News (newspaper) occasionally does fact checking on political ads, no matter who runs the ads. Sometimes these pieces are funny, and sometimes they’re enraging. But they are always interesting.

Yes but the claim that Mrs. Palin has made is that

Fox News is repeating that:

Mrs. Palin goes on to denigrate the AP for using “reporters” to fact check her book:

The OP even says

Yet I can’t find anything from the AP themselves saying they have 11 reporters (or even 1 reporter) doing the fact checking. Where did this information come from? Anyone got a cite?

Andrew Sullivan has been tracking "The Odd Lies of Sarah Palin since September 2008. I’m sure that “Going Rogue” will add lots.

*IMHO, not all of the lies Sullivan lists are concrete, but many of them are simply contradictory to well established factual events.

I’d expect that kind of integrity from Molly’s old paper.

Anyone who claims in clear defiance to the facts that the media, “make stuff up” had better be ready to have some scrutiny on her words.

Molly Ivins was a lush who needed fact checking herself on a regular basis. And she wrote mostly for the defunct Dallas Times Herald, not the Dallas Morning News.


It could just be on-the-job training for those 11 reporters: ‘How to identify inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, and distortions 101’.

Yes. One reporter got a byline, 10 others are credited as contributors.

I don’t think a researcher would get credited as a “writer.” And to repeat my earlier statement, I don’t think a fact checker would be assigned to do this job because it is reporting. A fact checker, for publications that have them, checks background statements in a reporter’s work. Here is the abstract of a New Yorker article by John McPhee about fact checkers.

In general, I agree that pointing out factual errors or any other flaws in a book is most appropriately done in a book review, not in a regular news article. “Sarah Palin said something inaccurate” hardly qualifies as news IMO, although apparently there are a number of editors who disagree with me. (Of course, book reviews can and should be published in the appropriate sections of newspapers, but they’re generally not the same as a straight news article.)

However, I don’t understand what you mean by saying that “the AP is dedicating straight news reporters and researchers” to fact-checking Going Rogue. The only actual source we’ve seen here so far is Marley23’s link to the San Jose Mercury-News article under Calvin Woodward’s byline, a version of which (AFAICT) was also printed in the New York Times, in the New York Daily News, and elsewhere in the media.

AFAICT, that adds up to one news article on the content of Palin’s book, attributed to one reporter, which was published in lots of different media sources because they apparently considered it newsworthy. It seems a bit hyperbolic to interpret that as meaning that the AP as an organization is “dedicating reporters and researchers to the task of fact-checking Palin’s book”. Is there more information that I’m not aware of about the AP doing this?

Edit: shoulda previewed. Thanks, Marley.

CNN recently fact-checked an SNL skit.

She can’t claim credit for it, though; it’s Karl Rove’s invention.

She’s even referred to the AP as “opposition” for doing this.

This idea that the press has a responsibility to “take a side” when reporting was one of the central theses of Stephen Colbert’s still monumental Correspondent’s Dinner speech. According to the character Colbert the job of the press is to write down what Politican X says and then go home and spend time with their family and work on that novel about the intrepid reporter who unmasks a vast conspiracy…you know, FICTION!

The press’ job is not to be stenographers (unless they work for the North Korean news agency), though they too often allow themselves to fall into that role. Palin’s book is “news” and deserves to be treated as such. It’s not about “taking a side”, its about evaluating statements against generally accepted standards of truth.

Thanks for pointing out the crediting, Marley.

Glad I could resolve that part of the question. One other point: I believe fact checkers are usually jacks of all trades who are assigned to one piece at a time. For a story like this, it would make more sense to use a group of political reporters or researchers who are already familiar with Palin’s history and have some idea what to look for. There’s not much sense in complaining about the number 11 either. Stories need to be timely, and it’s a 400-odd page book. Even if they confined their attention to her political life and not her personal life, and she only made an assertion of her views or a statement of fact every few pages, that’s dozens and dozens of items.

They’re not delivering a critique of the book’s prose, which is what the term “literary criticism” would imply. Likewise they’re not critiquing her political opinions. They’re simply examing the accuracy of the book and reporting on their findings.
And I would hope the AP assigned “straight news reporters” to this, as opposed to political commentators who might have an ax to grind.

Frankly, I’d love them to actually do this ALL THE TIME, for EVERYTHING. It would be nice to have the “news” actually be accurate and fact-based instead of consisting mostly of speculation, opinion and “human-interest” fluff.

The most important job of the news media is to keep politicians honest, whether they’re calling bullshit on Obama’s “jobs saved due to the stimulus” figures or calling bullshit on a potential presidential candidate’s recently published book.