- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2016

President Obama called on the news media Monday night to dig deeper for the truth in this election year, saying presidential candidates are facing less scrutiny than he did eight years ago.

Speaking at the annual Robin Toner journalism prize ceremony in Washington, Mr. Obama said the “coarsening” of this year’s presidential campaign is hurting democracy, and journalists are failing to hold candidates accountable for false claims. He urged the media not to “dumb down the news.”

“A well-informed electorate depends on you, and our democracy depends upon a well-informed electorate,” he said.

The president said journalists are too focused on “he-said, she-said” reporting, a basic tenet of the profession to get “both sides of the story.” He offered an example that might be based on his long-running battle with conservatives over climate change policy.

“While fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw,” Mr. Obama said. “If I say that the world is round, and someone else says it’s flat, that’s worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round. And that shouldn’t be buried in paragraph five or six of the article.”

Mr. Obama also said the public would be “better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.”

“I know that’s a shocking concept, that politicians would do that,” said the president, who himself drew widespread condemnation in 2013 for his false promise, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health-care plan.”

The president said he kept his campaign promises from 2007 and 2008 because a vigilant media was watching.

“If you go back and see what I said in 2007 and see what I did, they match up,” Mr. Obama said. “There was a price if you said one thing and did something completely different. The question is, in the current media environment, is that still true?”

The president said in-depth reporting “matters more than ever … and lasts longer than some slap-dash tweet that slips off our screens in the blink of an eye.”

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