David Gregory vs. Fact-Checking Guests

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As Tim Russert's successor on NBC's Meet the Press, David Gregory faced an uphill battle to live up to his predecessor's reputation. Now the Sunday morning host has run afoul of the blogosphere for his refusal to fact-check his guests.

First suggested by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, the idea of fact-checking claims made on the Sunday morning shows gained traction when Jake Tapper, interim host of ABC's This Week, announced he would begin doing just that. Gregory argued that while he supported accountability, he didn't think such an explicit mission-statement was necessary, tweeting: "Look, I don't think it's fair to suggest I'm opposed to fact checking or accountability or real journalism for that matter. [...] My view is that I just don't think we need a formal arrangement to accomplish that goal."

Pundits and bloggers quickly offered their forceful dissents. In a segment that included an interview with Tapper,
late-night satirist Stephen Colbert took a swipe at Gregory:

David Gregory has rejected [fact-checking], saying "people can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms." Thank you, David! It is not a Sunday host's job to make sure his guests aren't lying, any more than it's a party host's job to make sure the food isn't poisoned. The host is there to tell his guests when it is their turn to talk. That is why NBC is currently grooming Gregory's replacement: a chess timer.

Media bloggers, including Rosen, have echoed Colbert's sentiment.

  • Gregory's Unfortunate Timeline  Four months after starting the debate, Rosen re-enters the fray with a detailed timeline of Gregory's resistance to fact-checking. Letting the interviews, comments and tweets speak for themselves, Rosen offers a spartan conclusion that is nonetheless long on disgust.
I see two other possibilities for his refusal to adopt the fact check: one banal, the other more troubling. The banal: He's too proud to adopt something that a competitor picked up on first; it would look like a "me too" response and he is the market leader, first in the ratings and heir to the chair that Tim Russert held. The more disturbing possibility is that he thinks Tapper's policy may give Meet the Press a competitive edge in booking guests who won't want to be checked so vigorously.
  • David Gregory's Mistake  Piggybacking on Rosen's post, The Moderate Voice's Joe Gandelman argues Gregory's refusal to fact-check is symptomatic of journalism's unwillingness to accept "what a major news info outlet needs to do in the early 21st century." Gregory's refusal to change, he argues, puts "Meet the Press" in danger and threatens to shape his legacy as Russert's successor. "Gregory is in danger of becoming to NBC what Dan Rather became to CBS: a good, journeyman journalist who didn’t quite fill the big shoes of the giant he replaced," he warns. "If Gregory maintains this attitude, he could even muddy those shoes."
  • Encourages Dangerous Groupthink  Chastising Gregory's stance, Washington blogger Taylor Marsh fears others will adopt his mentality, arguing "coziness breeds collaboration" in the press. Marsh points to the Iraq War to highlight his feelings on journalistic complacency. "The press wasn’t willing to do their jobs and challenge the lawmakers leading us into that mess. Dig for facts and challenge the lies. Evidently Mr. Gregory has forgotten that his job isn’t to simply book big guests, but it’s also to get information to the people that is actually the truth. " 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.