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Columbia Missourian

Keeping the candidates — and the Missourian — accurate

By Tom Warhover
October 16, 2008 | 5:20 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

On Thursday, Missourian reporters and editors did a morning-after critique of a blog that ran during the presidential debate Wednesday evening.

The Missourian Watchword live debate blog was clunky to use. You had to refresh your Web page to check for updates and scroll down to the bottom each time. You couldn't always tell who was a Missourian reporter and who was a regular debate viewer commenting on the blog.

Call it a primitive use of the Web. At its heart, though, the live blog provided context and information in real-time to assess the words from the candidates.

For instance, when Barack Obama described his proposed tax cuts, Missourian reporter Mary Elise DeCoursey posted this: "Fact-checking the first question: "Barack Obama will cut taxes for 81 percent of taxpayers, not 95 percent as he keeps repeating."

The post carried a link to You could look it up yourself or challenge the use of that source by posting your own comment.

Or, when John McCain accused Obama of not coming clean about his association with Bill Ayers, Molly Harbarger wrote: "FactCheck has a long piece on McCain's ad about Ayers, which FactCheck said was wrong."

Other entries carried background material: The Depression-era loan corporation McCain referenced, facts about the national debt, and, yes, even more info on the now famous Joe the Plumber.

Pretty neat. I like the idea of holding the candidates accountable with facts.

And speaking of facts, a postscript. Next week, the Missourian newsroom will hold a "stand-down for accuracy."

The idea is to take time out of normal routines to talk about how the Missourian can publish fewer mistakes.

Not a single newspaper is perfect. In that light, I expect the newsroom to aggressively correct errors as it finds them or as you point them out. Still, managing editor Jeanne Abbott noted what seemed to be a spike in corrections since the start of the fall semester, indicating there were some basic checks these journalists could make to improve.

Proof is in the print (digital or otherwise). And you, dear reader, are the judge.