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Transformation in channels of news delivery and the ascendence of the blogger-reporter raise challenges for citizens and the Republic. The JUST Journalsim Section examines the nascent obligations of those who shape public opinion and purvey "news" in emerging media.

Marty PerlmutterPatricia Mendoza


Advantage: Liars. Fact-checking vs. Lying Liars

Marty Perlmutter
August, 2012

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” —Winston Churchill

There may be more opportunities to fact check and debunk than ever, but this actuality bumps up against a human tendency this is even more stubborn. "People seem to find it easier to believe rumors that they wish were true or that seem to fulfill a desire to hear the worst," writes Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News city editor Katherine K. Lee. Liars and manipulators can be more persuasive than the press, even with a growing corps of fact checkers and verification specialists. Reporting and fact checking is not the same as convincing people of a verifiable truth.

The author sums up the conundrum this way: "The forces of untruth have more money, more people, and … much better expertise. They know how to birth and spread a lie better than we know how to debunk one. They are more creative about it, and, by the very nature of what they're doing, they aren't constrained by ethics or professional standards. Advantage, liars."

We may hope that we are on the threshold of a new age of Internet curation and fact verification. But in truth, the struggle between liars, manipulated information consumers and rumor debunkers is only now being joined, and must be fought on proliferating platforms. The future of journalism and indeed of verifiable truth hangs in the balance.

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