Getting the Numbers Right - For Once

Be still, my heart.

The Associated Press yesterday did something that news organizations (including itself) do all too seldom: The wire service evaluated the truth of a statement by a politician in the same news cycle in which the claim was made.

Reporting on the new “Truth Squad” sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, Calvin Woodward tells us, “Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued an indictment of Bush’s economic record at the squad’s news conference but didn’t have all his numbers right.” Woodward continues, “He blamed Bush for losing 3 million jobs. Although jobs in the manufacturing sector are down by about 2.7 million since Bush took office, employment overall has fallen by 1.1 million in Bush’s time.”

This may not sound like a Herculean endeavor, and it isn’t. But Woodward’s willingness to assess the truth of Cumming’s claim in real-time is refreshing in an election season where too many reporters have been content to play “he said/she said” (and the AP has usually been content to let Democrats make misleading claims about job losses).

Bryan Keefer

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Bryan Keefer was CJR Daily’s deputy managing editor.