On Wednesday, The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, apropos of a challenge the media face in covering Donald Trump, mused that “‘objective’ news reporting -- and this is a real crisis with no easy answers -- is ill-positioned to call a lie a lie.” On Thursday, Tomasky urged the media to upgrade their position by taking certain “drastic measures” that “Trump has forced…upon us” as a consequence of his lying “literally most of the time he’s talking.”
One idea Tomasky touted is “real-time on-screen fact-checking chyrons” during the presidential debates. That, he acknowledged, “would cost money…But more than that, it would require rendering judgments in defense of the objective truth. This is something the media are terrified of doing. The urge in objective journalism not to want to be seen as taking sides is understandable. But with Trump we’ve been hauled into a parallel universe, and the old rules are dead.”
Tomasky allowed that this fact-checking “must apply to both candidates, obviously, and when Hillary Clinton says something that isn’t true, they should say so. But what the networks should not do is any of this craven pussyfooting around in the interest of balance; oh gee, we’ve given Trump six falses in a row, our switchboard is gonna explode, we’d better give Hillary one just to seem fair. Bollocks to that.”
Another measure might be “fact-checks [at] the bottom of news articles: The facts stated by Mr. Trump in the fourth paragraph of this news story are false. The actual facts, according to [authoritative source], are… And so on. Or just start a feature called Fact-checking Everything the Candidates Said Yesterday. If Trump’s list is 17 items long and Clinton’s is three, print the white space and have the stones to stand up to critics and say no, this isn’t liberal bias, it’s reality bias, deal with it.”
Tomasky concluded (bolding added):
Clinton [hasn’t] always [been] truthful about some of her personal affairs, like the email server business. But generally speaking she doesn’t lie about the world…No one has proven she ever said a false word about Benghazi. Trump lies about the world constantly…
Fact-checking can take any number of forms here. But the main hurdle is psychic. The big corporate media have to decide that they want to be in the truth business instead of the ratings business or the entertainment business or the false-equivalence-so-conservatives-don’t-get-mad-at-us business.