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Adam Green

Adam Green

Posted: January 10, 2006 03:08 PM

Truthiness: Colbert Was Robbed!


Monday night, The Colbert Report entered 2006 with one hell of a debut show - and that's the truth.

After well-leveled slaps at O'Reilly, Justice Sunday III, and anti-judge sentiment ("We've already got the president to interpret the law, we don't need judges"), Colbert used the last five minutes of the show to masterfully open America's eyes to a true journalistic tragedy at the Associated Press -- one that may remain disguised as a mere act of comedy to the untrained eye. 

(At the bottom of this post, I will ask you to give your respectful feedback to AP reporter Heather Clark. hclark@ap.org )

Harkening back to October 17, 2005, the night the Colbert Report debuted on Comedy Central, Colbert replayed his first Word of the Day: Truthiness.

At the time he had joked, "Now I'm sure some of the Word Police, the wordanistas over at Webster's, are gonna say, 'Hey, that's not a word.'" But on Monday, Colbert swollowed his pride - he admitted he was wrong.  Because it turns out, this week the American Dialect Society voted "truthiness" the 2005 word of the year.  Colbert commented:

I have never been so honored and insulted at the same time. You see the Associated Press article announcing this prestigious award - written by one Heather Clark - had a glaring omission: Me.  I'm not mentioned, despite the fact that truthiness is a word I pulled right out of my keyster.

Instead of coming to me, here's where Ms. Clark got the definition.  "Michael Adams, a professor at North Carolina State university who specializes in lexicology, said 'truthiness' means 'truthy, not facty.'"

First of all, I looked him up. He's not a professor, he's a visiting associate professor.  And second, it means a lot more than that, Michael.

I don't know what you're getting taught over there in English 201 and 324 over at Tompkins Hall, Wolfpack. But it isn't truthiness.

You know what, bring out the board.
He then proceeded to put Michael Adams on his already-saturated "On Notice" board (removing the E Street Band from that list, and keeping James Brady at the top of it).  Colbert then went a step further.

But the real culprit here is so-called reporter, Heather Clark.  This is her sleaziest piece of yellow journalism since, "New Mexico Poll Watchers See Smooth Election Day."

Now, I already tore her a new one for that.

Heather Clark, you...are dead to me.

She then earned a fresh entry on Colbert's "Dead To Me" board, joining Men with Beards, California's 50th District, and Bowtie Pasta.

Great comedy. One could easily call it a night.  But guess what? There's more. 
Colbert was right.  He was totally and journalistically robbed.

Heather Clark's AP story mentions that the honor was bestowed by the American Dialect Society, and laboriously goes through a list of less-funny words that earned awards like "podcast."

But if one actually checks the American Dialect Society's website it becomes stunningly obvious that Clark neglected to mention a key fact drilled home at the very top of the society's webpage:

In its 16th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted truthiness as the word of the year. First heard on the Colbert Report, a satirical mock news show on the Comedy Channel, truthiness refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. As Stephen Colbert put it, "I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart."

This is an open-and-shut journalistic case.  By the prominent acknowledgement of the award givers, Stephen Colbert deserves full public credit for giving voice to a concept that embodies the centerpiece of the Bush Administration -- preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true.

Heather Clark's exclusion of Colbert from this story is like excluding Santa from a story about Christmas -- oddly convenient

If Clark is dead to Colbert, it is up to us to ask her to correct the record.  Like Colbert, she must swallow her pride and admit she was wrong.  Ms. Clark can be contacted respectfully at hclark@ap.org

And if you're on the fence about whether to contact her, don't just do it for Colbert. Do it in the name...of truthiness.


(Views expressed in this posting are the author's and not necessarily any affiliated organizations.)

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