The factcheckers do issue some rulings that don’t provoke much disagreement. In these cases, questions of legitimacy fade into the background. This may happen much less often than we would like to think, though, and it’s a litmus test that political actors can easily game. To apply it too rigidly—to say these are the only questions factcheckers should rule on—would provide a powerful shield for politicians’ most misleading claims.
More to the point, this is the wrong litmus test for a journalism that very deliberately rejects the “he said, she said” formulations that sustain the “View from Nowhere.” We can’t ask journalists to make the judgment that torture is torture—in the face of the rhetorical, political and legal apparatus that has been erected to redefine that word—and then also insist that they stick to pure “reporting.”
Or to put it the other way around: The fiction of a clear division of labor between reporting, on one hand, and interpretation or argument on the other is an artifact of conventional objective practice, which obscure the reporter’s decision-making and argument-building to make it seem “as if the facts speak for themselves.” We can’t have it both ways.