False Equivalence Update: Good News from NPR, Not So Good from NYT

On the heels of several promising developments from NPR recently, a reader on the West Coast writes just now with this update:

I was lying in bed listening to the 8 am (ET) NPR newscast this morning when I heard the newsreader toss off some information almost parenthetically. It was a report on the primary campaign in which a clip of Romney was played saying that three years of Obama had brought fewer jobs and shrinking paychecks. The news reader added, "In fact although job losses that started in the recession continued into President Obama's term, the job market is now improving, if slowly, and real incomes decreased throughout the Bush administration."

Ladies and gentlemen: fact checking during a newscast!!  It was stated in the same deadpan newsreader voice, with no more or less emphasis; it almost slipped past me unnoticed. And on thinking about it, I realized that I'd heard something like this earlier, but couldn't remember the issue.  Maybe it's been going on for a while and I haven't noticed, but this is the first time I paid attention.  So we're not just doing He Said-He Said anymore. Maybe there's hope for False Equivalence? 

Maybe indeed! I'm not in a position right now to find the cite to that NPR broadcast, but I'll trust the reader's account and offer more congrats to NPR*.

On the other hand, another reader notices this offhand assertion from today's NYT that 60 Senate votes is "needed" for routine passage of a Senate bill, rather than 51 in normal circumstances and 60 to break a filibuster. The story was about energy policy, and it quoted President Obama's opposition to "oil industry giveaways" and then said:

Such views will set up a Senate vote as early as Monday on a Democratic proposal to repeal $2 billion in tax subsidies for the biggest oil companies and dedicate that sum to clean-energy projects. A similar measure previously failed when it fell 9 votes short of the 60 votes needed. [Ie, when it got 51 votes -- a majority.]

Emphasis added, above -- and added as a reminder to NYT copy editors to include the words "to break a filibuster" after "needed." Maybe they could take another look at that latest "truth and news" handbook from NPR.
* Routine disclosure: I have contributed to various NPR programs, though not in the past few weeks while I've been out of the country, but I have never been an employee.

** Extra disclosure: a ton of backed up items and reader mail, from Mike Daisey to Chinese leadership scandals to boiled frogs. Will get on them when next near the Internet.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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