When Brian Williams was revealed as a fraud, I couldn’t help but wonder about one thing: https://twitter.com/mntreiger/status/563505842100908032 Now that Bill O’Reilly has been similarly exposed, I have precisely the same question — but even more so. Consider this extended excerpt from an article about Media Matters, the organization responsible for discovering several of O’Reilly’s fabrications:
When Brock launched Media Matters for America in 2004, the liberal watchdog gave O’Reilly its “Misinformer of the Year” award. Six years later, it made Fox News its chief preoccupation, launching what Brock described as an all-out campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against the network. So it should surprise no one that, in the wake of revelations about O’Reilly’s dubious Falklands War claims, Media Matters is on an all-out offensive. Media Matters, which is based in Washington, employs roughly 45 researchers. According to Bradley Beychok, the group’s president, all of these researchers have been tasked with helping the effort to expose past instances in which O’Reilly lied about his personal experiences. “We have an unprecedented amount of internal archives. We have radio shows back to when we were founded 11 years ago. Every instance, every minute, everything he has said on air, we are deploying all of our resources,” Beychok said. “This is part of a long-term game to make sure that Fox News is held to editorial standards.”
To quickly recap that timeline, Media Matters was founded in 2004, and began to focus on FOX full-time in 2010. In the few days between the revelations concerning O’Reilly’s reporting in/on the Falklands and the publication of the article I just quoted, Media Matters managed to dredge up both the Mohrenschildt affair and El Salvadorian nuns bubbe meise. Sure seems all this coulda come out sooner. Or, my questions are these: If Media Matters’ regiment of researchers was so quickly able to identify those two instances of what appear to be incontrovertible falsehoods, how many more are out there? And what was everybody in that organization doing for the past half-decade? Did not one of those forty-five researchers think to fact-check the “No Spin Zone”? Is Media Matters just not going on hard on O’Reilly as they profess? Is it that O’Reilly made his claims long in the past, and sometimes in print? Has Media Matters been sitting on these nuggets until their divulgence could have maximum impact? And while I’m at it, there’s this: https://twitter.com/mntreiger/status/572653473063436288 What all three episodes have in common is that they concern episodes of very public wrongdoing that could have been easily checked (fact- or otherwise) at anytime — but weren’t. I’m not saying we need to run the world like The New Yorker, and there are certainly more assertions masquerading as fact online than could ever possibly ever be verified, but I think it’s clear there are journalists out there who are regularly falling down on the job — and I don’t just mean the ones named Williams and O’Reilly.