Meet the facts

Distressed that NBC’s Meet the Press has devolved into a platform for unchallenged, incorrect statements by politicians, two college students have launched a website called “Meet The Facts.”

For Washington insiders and political junkies far beyond the Beltway, Meet the Press (MTP) was once must-see Sunday-morning tv, where politicians and policymakers could expect to face tough questions and often-uncomfortable follow-ups. (Trivia note: MTP is the longest-running show on television, founded in 1947.)  More recently, though, the hot seat has cooled considerably, and guests regularly get away with canned talking points, obfuscations and downright falsehoods, say media watchers. [Case in point: Karl Rove’s MTP performance on March 14, 2010.]

The founders of Meet the Facts are Paul Breer, a political science student in Kansas, and Chas Danner, a journalism student in New York City. The statement that launched their effort came from David Gregory, the host of Meet the Press. Responding to the news that ABC’s rival program, This Week, has contracted with Politifact for fact-checking, Gregory said that MTP was not about to hire a fact-checker. “People can fact-check Meet the Press every week on their own terms,” said Gregory.

Breer and Danner met on Facebook and agreed that there was something seriously wrong with that notion. “Who holds politicians accountable for the statements they make on television?” they ask on their website. “According to host David Gregory: not Meet the Press. Fact checking is one of the primary functions of journalism, but Mr. Gregory has said that it’s up to the viewers to determine fact from fiction.”

“We and this campaign are not affiliated with any organization. Although we are both Democrats (yes they have those in Kansas) – that does not and will not impact this non-partisan effort in any way. We have invested $10 (domain name) and some hard work,” they say.

Meet The Facts is a non-partisan grassroots effort to encourage the NBC television program Meet The Press to incorporate a formal fact checking procedure for all statements made on air by its guests. That analysis would then be released to the public, preferably within several days of the broadcast.

This campaign is not about attacking Meet the Press or its staff, but rather about holding the program/brand to a higher standard – one that at present it is not itself meeting. Furthermore, we think “Meet The Facts” is a pretty catchy name. If NBC News and the staff of Meet The Press agree to permanently institute a public fact checking system for everything guests say on the air, we think they should absolutely name that feature “Meet the Facts” and we will gladly transfer over the domain name, Twitter username, and Facebook page username for their use, and at no cost.

We look forward to a time when If It’s Sunday It’s Meet The Press – but politicians beware, come Monday, it’s Meet The Facts.

In my personal view, one can only speculate on the reasons behind the change from hard to soft at Meet the Press. Surely, it’s not because we’re living in a kinder, gentler political era. A more likely explanation is that NBC, in the quest for viewers, ratings and advertisers, has lost its nerve and fears that making politicians uncomfortable could result in reduced access to newsmakers. A recent article by media-monitor Howard Kurtz describes host David Gregory’s enthusiasm about the new Meet the Press stage set scheduled for launch on May 2. The set features a backdrop of bookcases, ostensibly aimed at lending an air of gravitas. I hope that the books in the background will inspire fact-checking of information in the foreground.

(MTP) was once must-see Sunday-morning tv, where politicians and policymakers could expect to face tough questions and often-uncomfortable follow-ups. (Trivia note: MTP is the longest-running show on television, founded in 1947.)  More recently, though, the hot seat has cooled considerably, and guests regularly get away with canned talking points, obfuscations and downright falsehoods, say media watchers. [Case in point: /em

Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (477 Posts)

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.