Politico gets one right

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

When a high-profile conservative complains about media coverage, the response from journalists tends to be entirely predictable: they uncritically type up the complaints as the media embark on days if not weeks of self-flagellation over their purported bias.

We've seen that again and again during this campaign: the McCain camp complains about media coverage, and the airwaves and newspages then fill with reporters uncritically noting the claims -- and often adopting them as truth, no matter how thin the evidence.

Today, Politico's Ben Smith took a different approach: he fact-checked the examples offered by McCain's aides. And, finding them to be rife with falsehoods, he wrote an article that didn't buy into the McCain camp's framing that the media is out to get McCain, but that, instead, made clear that the campaign wasn't telling the truth. Here's how Smith began:

Sen. John McCain's top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called "liars." They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama's record.

But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.

I've been arguing for weeks that, even as they point out factual errors in McCain claims, the media often adopt those false claims as the framework for their reporting, rather than making the dishonesty of the McCain claims the frame.

Ben Smith's article is a good example of how journalists can focus their reporting on the falsity of bogus claims rather than privileging the lie.

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