Sloppy journalism terms, part one: Fact Check

The National Post has a Bloomberg News wire story about whether or not certain grossly misreported stories from the press singled out by American Spoiler Donald J. Trump were "fake news," and decreed that is article was a "fact check." The stories in question were retracted by those who reported them; so let's end a silly discussion. Journalists, to this day, harp on every real and perceived peccadillo of the president, no matter how petty and minute...but when their own gross negligence is exposed, boy, do they come up with a laundry list of twisted excuses why their sins are virtues, and why even banal things others do are just bad.

The press has now been reduced to weaselly and jealous older sibling tattling on their younger brother every chance they get. It has been truly pathetic.

But they are trying to bolster their credibility after being caught in numerous blunders all while framing it in clinical terms, the press has used the phrase "fact check."

Fine, what does that mean?

What is your process of "fact-checking"?

Minimum number of sources? Standardized methods? Balances in place to prevent a confirmation bias? Appeal to authority, and the like?

No to all of the above.

It is just a word used to sound smart.

But let's take it one step further: how good have journalists been at checking facts?

This week, a child fooled the press, who never bothered to "fact check" her statements.

It is a sloppy term that doesn't actually mean anything. It just sounds as if someone did something "official" without having any standardized and empirically-tested protocols.

It really is that bad.

Let's take a very recent example: a report that the "NYPD" raided the offices of Newsweek magazine.

Articles here, here, here, here, and here.

With contradictory accounts. Yes, it was the NYPD, no it wasn't.

Where is the fact-checking? Why don't reporters know what is going on with another media outlet?

Various media outlets sort of cribbing from each other with all sorts of "we don't really know" narratives.

There are all sorts of reasons for a police to raid a media outlet. We cannot assume the outlet is good, bad, or neutral. Sometimes the reasons may be justified; other times, it is an outrage.

There are no facts to check here. Just gossip.

So when children can play the press, and when people in the profession cannot tell you anything definitive about a possible major happening in the newsrooms of a national publication, the notion of "fact-checking" becomes absurd.

It's the reason the term is meaningless. 

The scientific method places all sorts of checks and balances when conducting studies, from double blinds to placebos.

Journalism has no such equivalent in its gathering -- or in its fact-checking.

This has always been a serious void in the profession, and one I have discussed at length in all three of my books: that the absolutely essentials of the profession have no set standards and basic terms have never been truly defined.

Do not ever wonder how journalism failed: it failed because it never had the discipline to have gold standards and then know what needs to be done to improve their product.

And yet they have the audacity to say they know something about facts, when they do not even see the owns that did them in.