Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Be Skeptical

From my favorite political daily comes the following story regarding unfounded rumors that Senator Obama was being advised by George Clooney on foreign policy:

The Obama-Clooney story was concocted from anonymous sources. Yet it spread throughout the world within hours. It was quickly picked up by The Drudge Report and television networks ranging from Fox News to NBC. The overall result served to bolster Republican candidate John McCain’s dubious contention that his rival Obama is a vapid “celebrity” rather than presidential material.

One would assume that a newspaper of any sort, even an English tabloid, would have some source for such a story, even a poor one. In fact, it turned out not to have any real evidence whatsoever. What's even more alarming, the "real" media turns out to have simply passed the story along with no independent verification.

We saw a similarly shoddy piece of "journalism" from the newspaper formerly known as the "Paper of Record" earlier this year.

The US media was criticized for failing to report on recent allegations surrounding former Senator John Edwards, which turned out mostly to be true. This poses the dilemma about when to report and when to sit on a story.

On balance, though, I prefer to hear accurate news a little later to hearing lies immediately. The press generally can't be counted on to do its homework, though, and will simply pass along gossip to avoid appearing to be out of the loop. It's up to the voters, therefore, to possess the sort of skepticism and good judgment that once could be found in our newsrooms, withholding judgment until all the facts are in.

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