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Political discourse based on facts? Keep dreaming

It is the worst of times for anyone who cares about factual accuracy in the media’s coverage of the US presidential election. Ben Gold live-blogged a panel discussion at the New America Foundation about the ‘fact-checking ecosphere.’

At 5pm ET — midnight in Israel — I’ll be live-blogging a discussion about political discourse at the New America Foundation (NAF) in Washington, DC.

Here’s a blurb from NAF on what to expect:

At a time of ever-accelerating news cycles, however, it’s increasingly difficult for subsequent clarifications and corrections to keep up with distortions and misinformation, as voters have typically moved on to the next story.  And so, out-of-context quotes such as President Obama’s aside about Americans being (or not being) lazy and Mitt Romney’s love of firing people (or insurance companies) still have a great deal of staying power.  

Against this backdrop, New America invites you to consider the interplay of these trends at a launch event for three papers that explore the history of journalistic fact-checking, the social science that explains its impact on the process and public attitudes, and the current fact-policing ecosystem.

Here’s a list of the speakers:

Introduction

Tom Glaisyer

Knight Media Policy Fellow

New America Foundation

Featured Speaker

Lucas Graves

Research Fellow

Media Policy Initiative

Panelists

Wendell Potter

Senior Analyst

Center for Public Integrity

Jason Reifler

Assistant Professor

Georgia State University

Bill Adair

Editor, PolitiFact

Washington Bureau Chief for the Tampa Bay Times

Moderator

Steve Coll

President

New America Foundation

Rick Santorum’s hard-line positions on social issues makes him a particularly popular target for all kinds of crazy in the Twitterverse. Consider:

@santorum

Santorum

#Santorum tells children of same-sex couples: you’d be better off if your parents were in jail http://t.co/Q4Ox0xmk #FITN

@santorum

Santorum

Santorum would love his gay son, says Rick, but Santorum would also like to see his gay son arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned – Dan Savage

T minus nine minutes to go. I’m looking forward to hearing Michael Dobbs. He’s the Washington Post’s (first ever) official fact checker. He just told me that the WaPo’s Fact Checker blog run by Glenn Kessler receives one million page views a month. Clearly, there’s a hunger for referees, if you will, in our political discourse.

Are you wondering what any of this has to do with the Times of Israel? Short answer: fact-checking isn’t just about political campaigns. Mideast news coverage arguably the most, shall we say, factually challenged. That’s one of the reasons I signed on with the Times of Israel – I believe it’s poised to become THE premier, most authoritative and baggage-free source of news from Israel.

Tom Glaisyer just kicked this baby off. Since we’re not live-streaming it, you should know he has a British accent (not that there’s anything wrong with that, Mr. Times of Israel Editor-in-Chief).

First speaker: Lucas Grave. He’s here to answer the question: Is fact-checking alive and well these days? My $0.02 – no. Now, let’s go straight to the promised food and drink after this briefing.

Factchecker.org. Good site. Is there an Israel-coverage equivalent? CAMERA? Honest Reporting? Dear readers (or reader – hi mom!), what do you think?

Turns out most people do not get their news from partisan outlets like Fox News (on the right) or Media Matters (on the left), according to Grave. INCYMI, Media Matters is embroiled in a bitter controversy here in the Beltway about – what else? – Israel.

Initiate germane photo upload test:

“Correcting people can actually make factual perception worse,” says a Georgia State University professor on the panel. In other words, if you tell  a supporter of Candidate A that s/he is blatantly lying, they may support that candidate more.

He says it’s because peoples’ sense of selves and self-esteem are bound up with their worldviews. Thus, attack their candidate, and you’re attacking their self-image. Cognitive dissonance kicks in.

Bill Adair, editor of Politifact, speaking now. Only fair to promote that site, a worthy rival to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

Politifact publishes the awesome Truth-O-Meter. Hard not to pick on Rick Santorum. When he recently said that the French haven’t stood by the U.S. in the last 20 years, they gave him the highly sophisticated “Pants on Fire” award:

More on the Media Matters brouhaha:

@Kredo0

Adam Kredo

Dershowitz on Jewish donations to Media Matters: Jews “have no idea how this org has turned into a bigoted group” http://t.co/bCVtq9Y3

Note: Tweets I’m embedding aren’t showing up. Nu?

And that’s a wrap. Not surprisingly, a short event. Check back in for more live-blogs on this site, especially during all the festivities and fireworks at the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference, only four days away!

Ben Gold is a DC-based writer who is under no illusions that this presidential campaign will be any more fact-based than the last one. Or the one before that. Or the one before that…

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