On Radio and Facts

05Dec08

Radio MicI listen to NPR’s To The Point with Warren Olney because it’s one of the best sources of balanced information I’ve found. However, I’ve noticed that though the show handles bias better than any other I’ve seen, they have trouble with getting facts straight if people are willing to stand up for factual innaccuracies.

For example, I was listening to “Detroit Pleads for Survival” (12/04/2008) when I heard a clip of a UAW rep in his Congressional testimony. The quote said, roughly, given that Congress recently provided a loan to Citi, the UAW feels justified in asking for a similar loan for Detroit. A commentator when on to say after the clip that the US has started a bailout trend, and now that’s it’s begun, what’s the difference between giving money to Citi compared to GM?

I’ll tell you right here, because the answer is obvious to anyone who has taken Economics 101.

Citi is a bank. GM is not.

Citi participates in the money multiplier effect, which is a mainstay in the valuation of our currency. That doesn’t mean we should write them a blank check, but it does mean that a loan to Citi does not justify a loan to GM. End of discussion.

But even this basic point is missed on To the Point. So I’ve been wondering, how can we improve radio to help overcome this? How can the Internet help integrate factual knowledge as a check in real time against BS commentators?

My best thought right now is to have a team of fact checkers with laptops at their fingertips during the discussion, and to require guests to back themselves up with hard evidence whenever possible. Research in advance of the show could be chached for quick access and use by all parties as well as on the fly lookups.

If you have any better ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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