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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Everything that's wrong with today's journalism in one column
Posted by Jill | 6:49 PM

I can't believe that the Public Editor of the New York Times even feels he has to ASK this:
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

That approach is what one reader was getting at in a recent message to the public editor. He wrote:

“My question is what role the paper’s hard-news coverage should play with regard to false statements – by candidates or by others. In general, the Times sets its documentation of falsehoods in articles apart from its primary coverage. If the newspaper’s overarching goal is truth, oughtn’t the truth be embedded in its principal stories? In other words, if a candidate repeatedly utters an outright falsehood (I leave aside ambiguous implications), shouldn’t the Times’s coverage nail it right at the point where the article quotes it?”

This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?

Reading that made me want to stick an icepick in my own forehead. What Arthur Brisbane is asking is for validation of the idea that everything is spin, that nothing is demonstrable, and what Republicans and Fox News have done for the last decade -- demand that demonstrable facts and utter horseshit be given equal weight -- is the way respected news organizations should behave.

It tells you a great deal about the New York Times when its public editor even feels that this is a question that needs to be asked -- whether newspapers have an obligation to fact-check or to just regurgitate whatever crap is fed to them. Of course, this is the newspaper that employs Jodi Kantor, a loathsome woman whose obsession with the Obama's marriage goes back to the 2008 campaign and has reached fruition with a "tell-all" book in which she "recounts" the views of a bunch of unidentified third parties and sells it as fact. This is the newspaper that let Judith Miller spout Bush Administration lies until it became demonstrably untenable to do so. And who can forget the halcyon days of another Jodi, this one last-named Wilgoren, whose job it was to hack Howard Dean to bits in 2004?

The Times can't have it both ways. Either it's going to be the newspaper of record, the great Grey Lady, the last bastion of factual news in this country, or it's going to be just another Murdochian tabloid. That Brisbane saw fit to ask readers this question tells us what decision has already been made.

And kudos to the paper's readers for giving this horsepuckey the smackdown it deserves.

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Blogger Pangolin said...
Somewhere in a newspaper office today they had a meeting on how they were going to increase readership among people under 30.

Never once was it suggested that they return to a high standard of accurate, objective, reporting. We'd rather commit suicide as a nation than have an honest conversation.

Anonymous tata said...

That right there rendered me speechless. There's no excuse for it.

Blogger Mauigirl said...
Totally agree - and I am still a loyal NY Times reader - but I do see that they are not adhering to their principles as being the purveyors of the real news and not spin. It's perfectly easy to do it. All they have to do is say, after a false statement they quote by a Republican (or anyone), is that further research has revealed that actually, X is not true, and they then can cite their own sources.

Blogger Bustednuckles said...
As if there was any doubt about it.
Investigative journalism has gone the way of the buggy whip and every major "news" organization is more concerned with the likes of lady Ga Ga and can't even be bothered with things like facts.
"We report what we are told".
From the likes of "anonymous" and idiots like Rumsfield.
Then you have Fox news, they are criminal, possibly prosecutable criminal, in their outright lies and they still spout their bullshit every fucking day and get away with it.

Makes ya wonder why dead tree newspapers are going belly up, besides being yesterdays lies, I mean, news.