This AP story shows the problem with 'fact-checking'

On Monday, President-elect Donald Trump called Meryl Streep “overrated.”

Then, the Associated Press ran a story under the headline: “FACT CHECK: Streep overrated? Trump picks a decorated star.”

Obviously, “overrated” is a statement of opinion, not fact — which the AP notes, before marshaling a list of Streep’s many awards and accolades, apparently as evidence against Trump’s claim of her being overrated.

Being highly rated is typically a key part of being overrated. Given the very long list of honours listed by the AP, you could argue that Streep is overrated even if she is also really, really great.

But the key issue here isn’t Meryl Streep. It’s “fact-checking.”

Checking facts is a key part of journalism. If politicians are making incorrect factual claims, journalists should correct them in the ordinary course of reporting stories.

The problem with the “fact-check” operations set up by various news outlets is that they invariably seem to mission creep beyond looking at facts, into evaluations of analyses and predictions and opinions.

Some predictions are solid and some are foolish. Some analyses are better than others. I definitely think that some opinions are stupid. But these are not matters for the fact-checker.

When fact-checkers get into these questions, they reinforce the idea that media outlets are putting their thumbs on the scale, and trying to brand certain ideas as “false” when they aren’t really true or false at all.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

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