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The new era of fact checking

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Tue, Sept 11, 2012

Editor: As we watched the USA Presidential Conventions, the phenomenon of checking the facts continues to loom large. There is now a whole new media industry dedicated to fact checking the truth of a statement or pronouncement and this has become an important part of the media coverage, often soliciting apology for a debunked statement or erroneous fact or the cessation of any repeat of that statement. This differs from the past, where the media mainly focused on simply reporting what was stated.{{more}}

On Tuesday morning, August 28, there was a call to the Hot 97 Too Cool Chris’ Morning Show by Ernesto Cooke. In ending, he stated that St Vincent had 4 years of negative growth and in 2011, St. Lucia had 8.7 per cent Growth and Dominica 7.8 per cent. This information was clearly false, but went without any correction from the host. According to official East Caribbean Central Bank figures, St. Lucia had 0.7 per cent Growth and Dominica 1.1 per cent growth rate in 2011. So, where did Cook get his figures from?

His statement on Hot FM was a shift from a pattern where such false statements were mainly confined to the NDP-friendly NICE Radio, where there was a fair number of gullible listeners ready to accept the propaganda as gospel. However, in order to reach more independent listeners, they must use other popular stations to spread their propaganda. This includes talk shows, which do not have a strong history of fact-checking.

It is unclear whether Cooke was simply mistaken and ignorant of the truth, or whether it was a deliberate attempt to mislead people. In the January 2012 Budget debate though, Arnhim Eustace also tried to mislead people and based a large portion of his debate on the falsehood that SVG had four years of negative growth in 2011. After the truth came out that SVG had positive growth of 0.04 per cent in 2011 and had been published on the ECCB website (National Accounts) as early as December 3rd, 2011, a month before the 2012 budget, Eustace has not repeated this claim of negative growth since the debate. So, it is surprising that Cooke, the NDP’s PRO should try to resurrect this falsehood.

In an era where fact-checking has become a regular feature of many keen listeners, the question is whether radio hosts and the media are also prepared to check and correct the most egregious statements or at lease dare to question their validity in order to lift the standard of the discussion on radio and to find the truth.

Dr Jerrol Thompson

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