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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

They all do it

Cynicism is the mother's milk of journalism. It is drowning the baby.

This weekend finds two political journalists, one mainstream, the other web-based, poo-poohing the hand-wringing over the the half-truths, misstatements and outright lies that emanated from the Republican Chair Fest in Tampa.

One of them, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, controls that newspaper's Pinocchio scale. Yet he declares that "hey it's a political convention, what do you expect?"

It is a fact that truth is often the first victim of politics and every candidate has a shaky relationship with it at one point or another. But when a campaign or a candidate takes fiction to a whole new level, that in and of itself is a story.

And the Romney campaign seems to have a special relationship with distortion, according to no less an "authority" than Kessler, who gives Romney and the GOP the lead over Barack Obama in the fiction department.

And he's far more generous than PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times fact-checker that goes through pages of GOP "Pants on Fire" entries compared to the Democrats.

Don't get me wrong -- there's a lot not to like about fact-checking, which can often seem to be dancing on the head of a pin. That's particularly true of PoltiFact, which has so many grade levels it makes you head spin.

Which brings me to BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, who seems to have bought the spin, hook, line and sinker.

Sorry, but a campaign that doctors an Obama quote totally out of context, then declares itself the Etch a Sketch campaign is entering new levels of dishonesty. And that doesn't even get to a vice presidential nominee who has distorted not only his own record on Medicare and deficit reduction but even lied about how fast he ran a marathon.

An unusually honest election Ben? Yes, there have been far nastier races, from Grover Cleveland and James Blaine to Michael Dukakis and the swift-boating of John Kerry. But nasty is not the same as shape shifting and outright lying.

It is the job of political reporters to overcome the f- 'em all sentiment that a nasty campaign generates and dig down into the facts. Cynicism and an acceptance of truthiness have no place in journalism.

And that's The Word.

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