Truth or Truthiness?

There's a new book coming out called The Lifespan of a Fact. It's about an essay that was assigned to a fact-checker - and written by both the writer and the fact-checker.

Harpers excerpted some of their exchanges:

FINGAL: There’s no mention of this accident in the archives of either the Las Vegas Review-Journal or the Las Vegas Sun, the two major papers in the city. John, do you have a source for this?
D’AGATA: I heard about this from a woman I interviewed at the Aztec Inn, which is across the street from the Stratosphere.
FINGAL: Can you send me a copy of your notes from this interview?
D’AGATA: I didn’t keep notes from the interview. I just relied on my memory of what she told me. Besides, this wasn’t a formal interview. I was just wandering around the Stratosphere trying to gather information.
FINGAL: To be honest, I suspect your casual interviewing strategy is going to be a problem.
D’AGATA: Well it might be a problem, but with all due respect, it’s your problem, Jim, not mine. I’m not a reporter, and I have no interest in pretending to be a reporter or in producing journalism. Also, even if this had been a formal interview, I still wouldn’t have taken extensive notes, because I tend to be casual whenever I’m interviewing people so that they feel more comfortable with me. The minute you take out a tape recorder or a notebook during an interview people get self-conscious and start “performing” for you, watching what they say and how they say it.
FINGAL: Well, OK… I guess… but this still seems to violate about ten different rules of journalistic integrity.
D’AGATA: I’m not sure that matters, Jim. This is an essay, so journalistic rules don’t belong here.


You can read more of the excerpts here here.

I'm not sure if I agree with the writer of the essay when he says that "The facts that are being employed here aren’t meant to function baldly as “facts.”" Maybe I'm naive, but when I read an essay, I assume it is factual. But as the excerpts show, that's slippery. Does it really matter that there are 31 strip clubs, but the author chose 34 because he thought it sounded better?



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Another thing that struck me about the conversation is I would assume the fact checker is lower on the totem pole, yet I felt like he held his ground well.