When you try to fit facts into that Procrustean bed, the truth is going to get stretched or amputated as reporters try to make 2+2 equal 5. Like, for instance, this article in AP's "Fact Check" file, found through Best of the Web.
The facts allegedly checked are Republican criticisms of the Obama stimulus bill. It leads off with a whopper of a bogus "fact check" against the senior Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica.:
MICA SAID: Transportation money is slow to get out because of "red tape" slowing things down.
THE FACTS: Republicans are correct that only a small percentage of the $48 billion in transportation money has been spent. But red tape is a red herring. In fact, stimulus projects have to be ready to begin quickly. Projects that have yet to clear permitting, environmental review or other bureaucratic hurdles won't get funded because they won't meet the law's deadlines.
If "permitting, environmental review or other bureaucratic hurdles" are not red tape, then nothing is.
That faux-clever distortion to be expected when a news organization forces facts into a template. The reporters aren't the only ones to blame, they are following orders from AP's management.
Much of the blame goes to the AP's Washington bureau chief, Ron Fournier, who fancies himself an opinion leader, shaping how America sees the world. Fournier left AP a few years ago for a failed political venture called Hotsoup.com, then pathetically crawled back to AP still retaining his desire to make the news, not report it. A story in Politico neatly sums up what Fournier is doing.
And then there is Fournier's boss, executive editor Kathleen Carroll, summing up the shallowness of the new AP by saying in another Politico story -- I am not making this up --“It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.”
“We probably weren’t as boring as you thought we were,” Carroll said when asked about the new style, adding that the AP has made “enormous changes” since she became editor in 2002. “Don’t make us decrepit or dull when we’re not."
It's always reassuring to read about a journalist who's got higher priorities than that boring old accuracy stuff.
P.S. -- Read my colleague Tom Blumer's exquisite takedown of a flawed AP economics story, showing precisely where the numbers are mistaken or out of context.