Friday, January 13, 2012

Should We Publish Lies? Opinions Differ.

Here is how the New York Times defines the role of the public editor:
Arthur S. Brisbane is the readers' representative. He responds to complaints and comments from the public and monitors the paper's journalistic practices.
All the quotes from the following post are real, and were not taken from the Onion.

The headline of his post:
Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

This should have ended there. Instead, who wrote an entire post on the subject.
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.
Still having trouble believing this is serious. On one hand "challenging facts that are asserted by newsmakers" is the job of a news organization, and on the other hand... the person you called a liar doesn't invite you to their birthday party?
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?
Uhhh, yes?
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.
This reader is frustrated that we print falsehoods and don't correct them! It's as if they look to this newspaper as a place to be further informed on the issues. How quaint!
Is that the prevailing view?
For people who care about being more informed and facts, yes, it is.
And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair?
When someone isn't telling the truth, you point out that they aren't telling the truth? That seems fair.
Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?
Yes. This is possible.
Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?
Mainly that you think that refusing to print lies is some sort of confusing and brave new world for reporters?

This post needs to enshrined for future generations to as so they can better understand how everything went so wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Question for readers: While my primary job is to sell newspapers, it has been repeatedly suggested that it is also my job to publish accurate information. While I can't find this anywhere in my job description (and I've looked), I'm wondering if publishing accurate information might lead more of you to buy my newspaper. What do you think? If I stop publishing lies, will you give us more money?