Over the years, we’ve noticed that fact checkers tend not to target other mainstream media for fact checks even though those media are at times directly responsible for the misinformation.
Apparently media outlets don’t want to show each other up and start the equivalent of an informational gas war (no pun intended). Because Zebra Fact Check breaks with that tradition, we thought we’d look into it. To our surprise, we found a 2013 article at the Poynter Institute website showing PolitiFact’s founding editor Bill Adair saying it’s time for the tradition to end:
“People in the media are realizing that they need to hold everybody accountable, including their colleagues,” Adair said in a phone interview.
How long before the “elite three” fact checkers join the fray, along with Zebra Fact Check and iMediaEthics (formerly “Stinky Journalism”)?
We can’t think of a good reason not to pipe up about inaccurate or misleading reporting. And given that fact checkers make it their business to call out inaccuracies and misleading statements, there’s no good reason to draw the line at fact checking other fact checkers. At worst, all the fact checkers lose credibility. But if fact checkers make enough mistakes to wreck their credibility they’ve earned that outcome.
Should fact checkers hide that fact? We don’t think so.