Facts vs. truth in Bachmann reporting

Every now and again, we’ll get an e-mail from somebody who objects to the reporting of anything “but the facts.” Some people don’t want analysis and they don’t want anything but what somebody says. That would be a bad thing.

It’s a bad idea for journalists to cover a campaign by merely reporting the words of candidates.






It was a fact that Mrs. Bachmann said she’d stay in the race after Iowa no matter what. But it wasn’t the truth, and most every political analyst knew it. Facts vs. truth: Which should be in a headline?

“I didn’t tell you what I knew to be false,” she said today.

How would you headline that?

  • Tyler

    “How would you headline that?”

    Political candidate speaks in riddles, incomprehensible. News at 11.

  • G-Man

    Thank God she is out of the race!!!

  • Tom

    “Lying Bachmann Promises to Tell the Truth”

  • John P II


    Quick, seal the southern border!

  • Jim Shapiro

    Tyler and Tom – Nice.

    How about “Despite Setback, Bachmann Continues to Argue That You Don’t Have to Be Sane to Hold Elected Office.”

    All who follow politics and live on humor are feeling a strange mix of relief and disappointment today.

  • Bob Collins

    It was a serious question; let’s get to the serious answers.

  • this is NOT lucy

    “Bachmann Sacrifices Herself For the Highest Good of Her District”


    “Bachman Decides to Focus on District She is Responsible To and Politely Bows Out of the Race”

  • JSK

    “Poor showing forced Bachmann to reconsider pledge to stay in race”

  • jon

    All but one of your screen shots above have an important “fact” that might be over looked. The date stamp.

    It was a “fact” on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd that Bachman was saying she was staying in the race, it was a rumor this morning she is dropping out of the race, and it is a fact this afternoon that she has dropped out of the race.

    perhaps the title should be “One true conservative decides Obama really deserves a second term.”

  • Kevin Watterson

    I see it as two separate stories. One story of what happened in the Iowa caucus, one story of what could happen depending on its results. One is news, the other is speculation. As long as they aren’t merged into one I don’t have a problem. Sometimes it can create unfair public assumptions, but that’s life.

  • The Big Dog

    “She is who we thought she was”

  • Jim Shapiro

    OK, how ’bout “Bachmann Withdraws, To Form Jibberish Party.”

  • Bob Collins

    // . One is news, the other is speculation

    Actually, one is campaign advertising disguised as news.

  • Kevin Watterson

    But it’s still fact. And unless someone has a source up to standards they can cite to show otherwise, it’s news.

  • Bob Collins

    //But it’s still fact. And unless someone has a source up to standards they can cite to show otherwise, it’s news.

    True. But it’s not a headline. It’s a fact without context which is one of the reasons why it’s not by definition truth. The addition of context is often dismissed as speculation.

    The question is why does what a candidate says become the headline?

    Nobody in Mrs. Bachmann’s position stays in a race like this. She was going to finish last in New Hampshire. It’s not a state that raises its palms to the sky on Sunday morning. Nobody finishes last in Iowa and New Hampshire and continues because the money shuts off after New Hampshire. And she’s not a stupid politician, so she knows that too.

    You heard that axiom “nobody wins the presidency without Iowa or New Hampshire” ad nauseum, but few people ever said why that’s the case. Iowa turns the money on. New Hampshire turns it off.

    So a headline with context would be more appropriate and more truthful. I’m not saying her quote cannot or should not be reported. I’m saying her quote is fairly irrelevant to what the news is. And the quote by itself is not news because facts by themselves are not news, although politicians and their specialists know how to get their advertising sold as news.

    Contextual and meaningful truths are news.

  • Kurt Nelson

    Where will I get my daily dose of Bachmannfreude now that she is out of the race and spotlight?

  • Kevin Watterson

    I’d agree with that analysis.

  • Jim Shapiro

    “I didn’t tell you what I knew to be false.”

    The quote is a “meaningful truth”, in that it’s meaning is arguably incomprehensible, and it came from an individual who was attempting to become one of the most powerful people on the planet.

    Taken in “context” with many of Bachmann’s other statements, it is not “news”, because anyone who has followed her analytically already knew that she has a tendency to make up the “truth” as she goes along – in this case an arrangement of words that she probably truly believed to be coherent.

  • kennedy

    I think the question was about which “facts” deserve a headline. The fervor that is moving from Iowa to New Hampshire makes any candidate news more headline worthy than it would normally be. The campaigns, voters, and news organizations are patrolling for news like hungry sharks. A sign of weakness in a candidate is like blood in the water. No candidate can be associated with the workd ‘quit’. Bachmann was floundering but did the obvious and vowed to persevere. The news was more about her flagging poll numbers (headline worthy) than her reaction (not headline worthy).