Should the media just start using the word 'lie'?
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Should the media just start using the word 'lie'?

#CallThemLiars
#LetThePublicDecide
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Comedian Michelle Wolf caught huge flack for calling White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a liar. But some argue it's time the press quit using journalistic euphemisms like "false statements" and "unsubstantiated claims." Just say it: they're lying! Most newsrooms, however, deliberately steer clear of that word. Calling someone a liar comes across as an insult. Journalists report the facts, and let the public draw their own conclusions. Should the press use the word "lie"? 🗞️

THE VOTES ARE IN!
#CallThemLiars
85.8%
#LetThePublicDecide
14.2%

FactCheck.org does not use the word "lie." Like other newsrooms, they make this choice because they think calling someone a liar is essentially a value judgment, and is also very difficult to prove.

“Day in, day out we avoid the use of the term lie because we rate statements not people.” Asked to elaborate on FactCheck.org’s aversion to “lie,” Robertson cites the industry-standard explanation: “Was there intent to deceive?” That’s a question that’s tough to answer, and it’s required to prove the definition of “lie.” There’s another layer to the rationale, too: “Our official policy is the ‘intent’ argument, but … if we said somebody lies every other day, to me it sounds like name-calling,” says Robertson.

National Public Radio makes the same argument. 

"Our job as journalists is to report, to find facts, and establish their authenticity and share them with everybody...It's really important that people understand that these aren't our opinions. These are things we've established through our journalism, through our reporting...and I think the minute you start branding things with a word like 'lie,' you push people away from you."

But press critic Jay Rosen has a more disturbing explanation. He thinks the press avoids using the word "lie" in deference to those in power, and as a way to avoid accusations of bias. Essentially, they stopped prioritizing the truth in favor of taking the easy way out.

Something happened in our press over the last 40 years or so that never got acknowledged and to this day would be denied by a majority of newsroom professionals. Somewhere along the way, truthtelling was surpassed by other priorities the mainstream press felt a stronger duty to. These include such things as "maintaining objectivity," "not imposing a judgment," "refusing to take sides" and sticking to what I have called the View from Nowhere.
...The drift of professional practice over time was to bracket or suspend sharp questions of truth and falsehood in order to avoid charges of bias, or excessive editorializing. Journalists felt better, safer, on firmer professional ground-more like pros-when they stopped short of reporting substantially untrue statements as false. 

Yet some maintain the media has no business making that kind of judgment. That's not their job.

But in the Trump era, that attitude seems like a quaint norm that's at best outdated, at worst dangerous. It gives cover to politicians and officials that have been proven liars. How many "errors" is Jared Kushner allowed to have on his disclosure forms? If the media won't say "lie," how can we trust them to tell us the truth?

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