To his credit he's never actually claimed his films are "documentaries"...he's always just said they're films. Which is the equivalant of me constantly avering that I'm not a reporter...I'm a blog. The facts in his films are mostly 99% accurate, but he definitely paints those facts according to his own color pallette. It's like looking at a vista with heavily hued sunglasses...you are seeing the actual horizon but you're not seeing the full spectrum of that horizon. I actually don't have an issue with this...how could I?
What I take issue with is his methods of obtaining his story, i.e., the ambush of Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine and the blatantly staged scenes of him walking out of Heston's residence after he embarrased him; or rounding up two Columbine victims and marching them down to K-marts to protest the sale of ammunition. That, to me, is not documentary filmmaking, it's propaganda and staged activism. But once again, he's been careful not to call himself a documentarian...he refers to himself as a filmmaker. For that I respect him.
Having made informational and documentary films my whole life, I can tell you what my personal standard is for a true documentary film as opposed to propaganda: If you set out to make a film on a subject, already knowing what the answer or outcome will be...that's propaganda (and I'm not implying that all films of this genre are bad). If you set out to make a film on a subject, not knowing the answers or the outcome of the film....that's a documentary.
Documentaries are much harder to make and usually don't end up as commercially successful as propaganda films because they require much more work and aren't nearly as reactionary or "dramatic" as propaganda films. I think one of the best examples of quality documentary filmmaking is PBS' Frontline series. I think WGBH sets the bar for true documentary standards.
Watching this video today:
...I couldn't help but laugh at Michael Moore chastising the journalistic ethics of America's newspapers. If he's fooled himself into thinking that he's somehow above and beyond the influence of corporations....I'd love to audit his income sources. His points are absolutely valid, but I just found his indignancy on journalisic ethos a little hard to choke down.