CNN, Moore play out Sicko fact war online

The worldwide web has become a battlefield of news in a war of words between CNN and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Moore let rip a high-volume polemic during a heated interview with the TV channel last week in response to health correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta’s attempts to “fact-check” his latest documentary, Sicko, which criticises America’s healthcare system.

The explosive live argument left facts of the story impenetrable even after transmission, so each side raced to the web to press its case using supporting material.

Moore used his website to post complex citations for each of the assertions made in his movie, plus a line-by-line rebuttal of each of the “corrections” made by CNN, adding links to original source material.

“People can go to my website tonight and they can find out the facts about Sanjay Gupta and his facts,” Moore barked on TV, accusing CNN of being in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies.

CNN then used its own website to publish a point-by-point defence of Moore’s rebuttals, as well as a transcript of the controversial interview, in response to an open letter in which the filmmaker demanded an apology.

The use of the internet, by each side, as a dumping ground for the sophisticated, statistics-heavy research reports TV news shows often do not have time for, but which can make or break journalistic trust, has made for an intensely rigorous online dissection of the initial story.

And it has offered a new glimpse at how online news media can complement broadcast, because hyperlinks uniquely enhance reporters’ ability to reference authoritative source material.

Moore, who is today due to re-appear on CNN, in a follow-up online dispatch last night pointed to the TV network’s admissions it had made two errors in reporting Sicko, adding: “The truce has been signed”. CNN continues to argue it has “zero vested interest” in defending pharmaceutical companies.