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August 15th, 2001

When the Media Don’t Fact Check

Most people expect their mother or uncle to forward along some dopey hoax about people being stuck by AIDS-infected needles in movie seats or somesuch. I’ve even seen policemen forward these warnings insisting that it was true… “I know about this case!” they’d say.

But I’d like to think that the mainstream media would be able to do half a second of fact checking and find these hoaxes. Unfortunately, the media seems to be just as gullible as your less-than-intelligent uncle. This story about the supposed health benefits of breast watching was picked up by a number of newspapers around the world and reported as news.

My favorite example of this practice of poor fact checking came on the G. Gordon Liddy show when the G-Man tried to push his strong pro-gun stance by touting the story about the gun-toting grandma in Australia as the perfect example on why everyone should own a gun for protection. Too bad that after he wasted all that breath, it turned out to be a hoax. I e-mailed him letting him know that he might want to find some actual factual antecdotes to support his stance, but never heard back from him or anyone on his staff.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that journalists do at least a quick check on one of the many hoax sites on the Internet when they get a story as obviously fake as “10 minutes of staring at a woman’s breasts is equivalent to a 30-minute aerobic workout,” we’d all be a lot better off. The web already gives Uncle George a worldwide audience for his “I swear this is true!” — let’s try to keep radio and TV somewhat immune from these blatent hoaxes. -ram

Posted in Consumer Commentary

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