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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

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Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Journalism and Fact Checking: Follow the links

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Stephen Colbert explains 'truthiness'

Stephen Colbert introducing the word 'truthiness'

I was writing a post for the Guardian US Politics blog today using the excellent FactCheck site to cut through the spin, mis-representations and some might argue lies emanating from the Republican Convention speakers. Before someone accuses me of bias, both parties spin, and it’s the job of journalists to counter the spin regardless of the party. FactCheck is a brilliant non-partisan service from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and I will stress non-partisan. They examined Democrats’ claims last week during their convention, and took the Obama campaign to task for airing an ad airing in Michigan that misrepresents John McCain’s current stance on low-cost loans to beleaguered American automakers. Politics is played by representing the facts in such a way as to support one’s world view, but there is truth and then there is ‘truthiness‘.

FactCheck does an excellent job of documenting its sources that allow people to evaluate the source material in total and also see the source immediately. It’s a bit of old school footnotes and new school linking, but it’s an excellent exercise in transparency. Even before clicking through the link, a reader can clearly see that some of FactCheck’s quotes come directly from press releases from Office of Senator John McCain.

I compare this to an AP story on the Huffington Post, on Google and Yahoo News that does the same fact checking job as but doesn’t have any links. I know that this is syndicated content. But why not include links in the syndicated content? Come on, it’s not that technically difficult. I think that the Associated Press is leaving itself open to charges of bias by not providing links to the source material, and the AP has had to circulate talking points combating charges of bias from and others against its Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier because he considered taking a position with John McCain in 2006. And now that McCain strategist Steve Schmidt has all but declared war against the media, it would be wise to increase the transparency.

As an internet reader, I’m increasingly suspicious of journalists who don’t link. Yes, if they quote an official that gives me a sense of the source. But why not link to original source material? It also allows me to dig more deeply into the story if I want without having to turn to Google.

Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 says that it is a waste of resources to throw away all of the research that journalists do, and linking is not important simply in terms of transparency:

…understanding the value of links, and how they connect content, ideas, and people, is fundamental to understanding the value of the web. And understanding the value of the web is the key to unlocking the new business models that journalism needs to survive and thrive in the digital age.

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3 Responses to “Journalism and Fact Checking: Follow the links”

  1. Samuel Diamond Says:

    “Before someone accuses me of bias, both parties spin.”

    As an editor, I cringe at the generalist journalist remark of equal standardizing of two things because they relate based on one action or existence.

    ” Before someone accuses me of subjectivity, Manny Ramirez and Jason Bartlett play baseball.”

    If someone wants to bring about a story, and imply true impartiality to their journalism, one must seek out the frequency, merit, source, and ethical reasoning of the action or correlation.

    ” Before someone accuses me of bias, Mike Tyson and Peter McNeely both are boxers?”

    But the story, the legitimate background, and the correlations are the most important parts of the story. Who is winning? Tyson of course. Who has the legacy of winning? Tyson. Who might have a chance, but you can feel the false hope? McNeely. Who won the match? Who is winning the match? How are they specifically boxing each other.

    In political journalism, the hugest error, is to fall to impartiality if to compromise the disillusionment and/or offset the bias of both sides. Value-free may get writing gigs to measure historical events, but you automatically fall into the form “truthiness” tellers if you let the spins cancel each other out. I read hundreds of articles a day, go through many media links and small-time blogs, and I can only say that the Republican party looks to be the clear winner by their marketing tactics.

    For every article I have read on, Slate, or Crooksandliars against McCain, I have read twice as more for anti-Obama sentiments. And the Palin rebuffs are highly superficial that most of the stories in a readers’ sense subject her as the little train who will. Her password is popcorn. She believes in dinosaurs. These tabloid-ish arrangements actually clear her of wrongdoing, because it has nothing to do with politics on a male psychological level. Because men don’t see women as equals? Because she is attractive and represents a lot of normal conservative women? Likely.

    Can I say I am right? Hell no. I have to sift through these articles; this is what I see, and I have to analyze it daily of what to place on my ( future ) site.

    My whole point is regardless, Always seek more to the matter when you write. You tell others to write with links, yet your only links are against liberal-seeming papers. I can’t say that you have a bias, but your writing does, and as an editor I would propose it towards the Op-ed section. I always tell my writers to see the whole picture, and don’t crop it to fit a word limit, a compromise, or a pleasing structure.

    Factcheck is a good source, but it only finds macro-media pieces to the puzzle of marketing politics. It is the equivalent to asking an owner of a baseball team who will win the MVP. He is but one for many layers of critics ( coaches, front offices, players, fans, journalist who actually hold the ballot ), and those layers may not be as objective as ( I checked out the fact check and it was 17-15-1; Obama essentially does more attacking or shifting with a tie going to tire pressure analysis ).

    At the same time, there are other, many other, players who are on the field marketing their team to win. If I had to analyze correctly, by what I am seeing, I think the megaphone is louder on the republican side. I’ll put it this way; if my readers have to gamble their life savings on who is going to win the election, they will need analysis and proof to pick one side. Even going by simple history, only Bill Clinton has gotten his party in the White House in 8 of the last 28 years. With those types of numbers, is it fair to say that it may not be a good idea to compromise both spins as equal? Or that FactCheck may not be enough to see the whole field of what each party can do to win?

    Here is a great article to read about the Republican campaign machine. There is also an audio excerpt on NPR on Obama’s camp as well. Email for the audio if you’re interested.

  2. Samuel Diamond Says:

    ” Before someone accuses me of subjectivity, Manny Ramirez and Jason Bartlett play baseball.”

    My whole point is that Manny Ramirez is a WAY much better player than Jason Bartlett. This sentence tells me nothing of the story, and would not be worth anyone’s time except anyone who has no idea of who plays baseball.

  3. Samuel Diamond Says:

    I am not questioning your journalistic methods; I do understand that sometimes we force a value-free lens on very heavy topics such as this election. It isn’t a fish-out-of-water situation either since the election can effect pretty much the entire world.

    At the same time, this is when the morals and ethics of a journalist come into play. You see two people fighting:

    ” Before you accuse me of bias, both people were fighting”.

    But who is bigger? Who is smaller? Who is going to win? Who is at fault? If you make a compromise about two different entities, the story is useless, and morals or ethics may be questioned of why nothing was done in the first place.

    We have seen how the few journalists had questioned the strength of the market, and they were screamed over by generalists who claimed “C’est la vie!”. And now, everyone has gone nearly insane pointing fingers at every person or situation possible. But it would’ve been extremely easier to hear the person that was actually right, or at least analyzed a probable scenario. Compromise is a tie, and those scenarios seldom happen.