New York Times Wonders Whether it Should Report Whether Its Sources are Lying

I kid you not.

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?.

Apparently, the Times does not believe, as a matter of its DNA, that if a person in a suit says something, it has any duty to check it out and report on whether that statement is factual.

Writes the Public Editor:

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.

….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.”

Actually, a better form of that paragraph would be

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. When asked, the Romney Campaign was unable to substantiate Romney’s claim with any examples.”

Brisbane’s column is a head-scratcher. I have never seen such a succinct example of the Stenography Theory of journalism. I do not know how on earth any news organization intends to get money from me on an on-going basis if all it does is an aggregation that my RSS reader can do plus some ordering of importance — which some content-recognition AI will do for me within a decade.

Fact-checking or ruin, people.

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8 Responses to New York Times Wonders Whether it Should Report Whether Its Sources are Lying

  1. Vic says:

    You know, I wrote a reply to this which was, of course, lost, because I FORGOT that I have to lower my shields to deal with your blog (when I really don’t use an inordinate amount of security – I’m frankly shocked it’s not an issue for more people.) That’s REALLY annoying. It’d be nice if you could at least set up a warning (as some sites do) that my configuration is non-conforming so that I don’t waste time writing a post only to lose it.

    (If we all had our computers set up properly secure, NOBODY would be able to post here!)

    • RP says:

      If you use the Firefox browser, there an downloadable add-on/extension called “Lazarus” which makes lost typing recoverable.

  2. jones says:

    Reporters can’t call “newsmakers” out on their lies because then they risk alienating the people they rely on for their “scoops.”

    This is a very real problem, one that turns most news outlets into peddlers of propaganda.

    Take the Republican primaries, for example: half the candidates are Pat Buchannan knock-offs, and the media is disseminating their ideas to mass audiences for free, on pretense of “covering” the electoral process. In effect, the media is subsidizing massive focus-group study for the Republican party.

    For all their rhetoric about “individualism” the Republican party has for decades been the disciplined party, and of late has consolidated power by voting in rigid lockstep. Whoever the party chooses as their nominee will get the support they need to wage a reasonably effective campaign against “socialist” Barack Obama.

    These Republican primaries are only nominally about picking a candidate. They’re first an foremost about carpetbombing the American public with right-wing propaganda.

  3. Smith2 says:

    This is a little too disingenuous to be good propaganda. Of course Krugman is a liar.

  4. Roanman says:

    One would think that fact checking would have been covered in Journalism 101.

    The problem with the New York Times and most other media for that matter is an inability to distinguish between reporting and editorializing.

    Which is the very reason the “mainstream media” of which the new York Times is a leader is held in such contempt.

  5. Brett Bellmore says:

    It’s important to understand that journalists are not passive, innocent victims, haplessly being fed lies. They are active participants in the public lie industry, which is dependent upon them for it’s continued viability.

    To put it bluntly, suppose you’re a journalist, and there’s a lie you want to tell. Maybe you want people to believe it for ideological reasons. Maybe you just want to juice up a boring story. Does it matter? You *could* just go ahead and tell it in your own voice, like anybody else would have to. But you might get caught out, and if you were, you’d take the fall for it.

    Or, you could find somebody telling the lie you want to tell, and just quote them. The lie still gets told, but now you’re officially off the hook, even if you get caught: It was somebody else’s lie, and your only professional obligation was to acurately relate it, even if you knew it wasn’t true, and could have found somebody speaking the truth to quote.

    Heck, even if somebody proves to your employer that you published a lie, there probably won’t be a correction, because accurately relating somebody else’s lie isn’t the sort of thing journalists view as a “mistake” in need of correction.

    Sure, maybe you get a little annoyed when some other journalist quotes a liar whose lie you wouldn’t personally have wanted to pass on. Still, the system lets you lie without consequence. It lets you off the hook for figuring out who’s lying, and who’s telling the truth, which can be an annoying amount of work. The system is in your own interest to maintain.

    And the liars know it. They know they’re not lying to the journalists, they’re the journalists’ partners in lying to the public. The journalists aren’t going to turn on them.

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