Miss the endless debates in the U.S. last year over the rise of fact-checking sites? Well, move to Australia, where the debates are apparently just starting in earnest. Politifact Australia, the U.S. site’s first international affiliate, launched in May, and newspaper veteran Ian Moore doesn’t much like it:
In essence, sites such as these are not a journalistic enterprise, nor a resource. They are out to cut the lunch of established publishers with cheap grabs. This is as far from real journalism as practised by newspaper masthead publishers as it gets. It is the job of journalists to establish facts and break news, not indulge in needless semantics.
Another fact-checking enterprise is about to be launched by the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], with $10 million of taxpayers’ money. The broadcaster is currently hiring staff for a unit that will check the factual basis of statements by politicians and other public figures, while generating content. Its work seems to be mainly internal, but an ABC spokesperson says the unit will have its own web page.
Now that is a frightening prospect — groupthink not only being accepted by the national broadcaster, but is being made compulsory. It does little to support the contention of independent journalism.
If there is improvement to be made to journalism standards, it won’t be achieved by caucusing on interpretation of facts. It would be far better to encourage better use of the journalist’s stock-in-trade — words and language. Standards have lapsed in recent years as a result of inattention to the teaching of basic grammar and proper vocabulary in our schools.
Now who will be the Rachel Maddow of Australia?