Here’s a story that supports the thrust of my previous post. Listening to the producers and writers of “The Daily Show” describe their mission and how they hold themselves accountable makes you wonder why real news organizations can’t do this.
"I feel like there are lot of critics of the government but there are very few critics of the media who have an audience and are credible and keep a watch on things," said "Daily Show" writer Elliott Kalan. "That’s a role that we provide that we take very seriously."
And they try to be funny and accurate.
One of the show’s rules is to not trust any source too much until it’s been confirmed by another source. The show’s 11 writers and eight producers — who range in age from their early 20s to mid 40s and four of whom are women — say they often check The New York Times and other newspapers to verify the facts and figures they hear on TV or read about on blogs. They also have a researcher and fact-checker, Adam Chodikoff, who makes sure any information that’s used has been verified by multiple sources.
"We work very hard to make sure that we don’t take anything out of context," King explained, "just because we like to think at the end of the day that what we’re doing is right and correct, but also because while the networks don’t respond to us all that much, people attack us and criticize us and we don’t want to give them ammunition than they need."
Daily Show producers have their sights set on my pet peeve.
Too often, King said, journalists’ political coverage — and that of media critics — ends up being sanitized and nothing but a perfunctory he said/she said exchange. "If you were going to talk about whether the earth is flat, and 99 percent of scientists are saying it’s round, and 1 percent are saying it’s flat, you wouldn’t bring on the 1 percent guy," he said. "That viewpoint is factually inaccurate and they shouldn’t bring him on just to give the illusion of balance."
When both sides are represented, writer Elliott Kalan said, there needs to be more fact-checking and deeper questioning: "A senator or governor will be on the news and will say something completely biased, and newscasters won’t call them on it. They should be checking these people. Instead they don’t want to alienate them and they let them say whatever they want."
He argued that the news media — and political commentators — need to look more critically at both sides of an issue, and spend more time breaking down complicated talking points for news consumers. Too often, Kalan said, journalists adhere to neutrality to the point where it paralyzes their ability to ask tough questions and undermines the power of objective, informed opinion.