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Should journalists be using “verification” to protect Obama from Bill Clinton’s lies? 1/23/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in verification.
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“In the end, the discipline [of verification] is what separates journalism from other fields and creates an economic reason for it to continue,” says Tom Rosenstiel, arguably Modern Journalism’s leading thinker. But what has never been satisfactorily answered is what happens when a quoted source lies? If what has to be verified is simply that the quoted source made the false statement, and not the veracity of the statement itself, can’t journalists become complicit in spreading false information and lies?

This dilemma is now being tested in the Democratic Primary, as Obama has understandably expressed frustration that Bill Clinton “continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts” — false statements that are then amplified by mainstream media. Not that this ought to shock any intellectually honest person, given a history that includes dissembling about not having sex with “that woman,” a conviction of lying before a federal grand jury, praise from former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey for being “an unusually good liar” and, per the Wall Street Journal, a breezy “You gotta do what you gotta do” dismissal of lies told about opponent Bob Dole. If the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other fields, there sure doesn’t seem to be much separation from other fields these days. Or, for that matter, from liars.

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