Ben Goldacre of Bad Science fame has tonight tweeted a link to The Plum Line, Greg Sergeant's blog/column at The Washington which points out that fact-checking pieces are becoming the most clicked through on the net.
We might think also the most read in their inky cousins, but that's a bit presumptuous. We don't really know. With the biggest, oldest and most important survey of UK newspaper and magazine consumption - the National Readership Survey, conducted by ipsos MORI - not going close to such routing detail.
We suspect online media get the fact check clicks partly as a function of their fact-hungry clientele.
And that the inkies - even some of the qualities - lead on fact-wrecking.
But as The Plum Line refreshingly points out: Fact Checking is the essence of journalism.
There's a dedicated USA Factcheck.org (University of Pennsylvania) which interrogates the claims of politicians of all stripes, including via Twitter yes 140 chars is enough to fib, and we of course have "Factcheck with Cathy Newman" from Channel 4, much openly ghost-written by Cathy's researcher Alice Tarleton.
Today's biggie is the rather ridiculous over-claiming of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Here in a key note speech recorded on the Cabinet Office website, not in the smudgy Focus newsletter where this fella usually does his overclaiming. Was his ConDem government's programme of reform announced today: "the greatest political shake up since 1932"? Er, not on your Nelly. Naturally Gary Gibbon also sticks a few gentle boots in on his blog too. But we especially like Alice/Cathy's string of tags: Coalition, Fiction, Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, Parliament.
Canceling the ID Cards programme - something I'm very pleased about and was pictured but not alas quoted on trying to oppose in a John Harris Guardian piece about four years ago - is not in the same order of reform as rolling out various elements of suffrage. The 1832 act gave Manchester MPs. Hurrah! But only *rich-ish* Mancunian MEN got to vote. Indeed, paradoxically, this act was the start not the end of the explicit prohibition of women's votes! And it was not until 1918 that all men got to vote at 21 and (bizarrely) women at 30.
That's a very long time after 1832 and far more significant than some extra rich men getting some extra rich pickings. As is the 1928 act which gave women equality on suffrage and votes at 21. That's in living memory, just. In fact my paternal Grandmother - Mabel b. 5 April 1906 d. 9 March 2010 (103 and 11 months) - was among the first to enjoy this equal billing and didn't miss a vote for Labour, and latterly a car lift from Tories, her whole long life.
Over to Channel 4 Factcheck:
Clegg’s claim is more hyperbole than fact, says Professor Justin Fisher, director of the Magna Carta Institute at Brunel University [which fact fans is apparently the ConDem John Leech MP's Alma Mater].
“He’s not going to just say, ‘this is quite interesting’ – any new reform is going to want to seem like the best thing since sliced bread,” Professor Fisher said. “But Clegg’s ignoring a number of reforms in the 19th century. You could point to lots of shake-ups which were at least as significant as this today.”
Let's give Cathy Newman - who has noticed reforms in the last five and ten years never mind 180 years that match Nick's tweaks - let's give her the last word:
Nick Clegg might not want to extol the virtues of the political partner he jilted at the altar. But by airbrushing Labour’s democratic reforms out of the history books, the new deputy PM is sounding a bit as though power’s gone to his head.
The aim to transform politics is laudable. But unless he’s got something up his sleeve, giving women the same voting rights as men in 1928 and even Labour’s devolution of power to Scotland and Wales in 1998 were more transformational than anything set out today.