Just The Facts, Please

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Friday, September 21, 2012

This week's show is dedicated to the search for truth. Or, in journalism terms, fact-checking.

The Problem with Getting it Wrong

The misreporting of facts can have harsh consequences for the people involved. Brooke explores some of the cases that have tarnished the reputations of individuals—and even a whole town.

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Bamboozled by "Bacile"

When riots broke out across the Muslim world in response to an anti-Islamic film called "Innocence of Muslims," news about its origins started pouring in. The media reported that the film was made by Sam Bacile, an Israeli real estate developer in California, who claimed that more than 100 Jewish donors put up the funds for the $5 million project. Those reports turned out to be false, as it was later discovered that "Sam Bacile" was actually an Egyptian Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Brooke speaks to PBS Mediashift.org blogger Devin Harner about how the media got duped into reporting falsehoods.

Talking Heads - Psycho Killer (live version from Stop Making Sense)

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Checking in on Fact Checking

This election season, fact checking has become a story in itself. But what do we really know about how different media outlets fact-check their stories, and what could they be doing better? Brooke speaks with "This American Life" host Ira Glass, The New Yorker's Peter Canby, "All Things Considered" producer Chris Turpin and Poynter's Craig Silverman about the process of trying to get things right.

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"THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT"

In 2005, The Believer magazine paired a fact-checker with a contributing writer working on a piece. Seven years later some version of their epic, contentious back and forth—first about facts, then about the genre of non-fiction and finally about the nature of truth itself—is a book. Earlier this year, essayist John D’Agata and erstwhile fact-checker Jim Fingal spoke with Brooke about The Lifespan of a Fact.

Sufjan Stevens - Barcarola 

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"A Wilderness of Error"

In 1970, the wife and daughters of a Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald were stabbed to death, and MacDonald himself was found guilty of the crime. In his new book A Wilderness of Error, Errol Morris writes a revisionist history of the case, suggesting that MacDonald may actually be innocent. Brooke speaks to Morris about why, for him, the facts of the original case just didn't add up.

UNKLE - Cut Me Loose

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Fact Checking the End of the World

Citing the Mayan calendar, many people believe that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Some of those people email NASA scientist David Morrison who, unlike most scientists, takes their concerns seriously enough to explain that there is no science to back up the 2012 prophecy. Brooke speaks to Morrison about the possibility of dissuading people from believing the end of the world is near.

Two Steps From Hell - Master of Shadows

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