Masochism Tango

Apparently Times Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane is a glutton for punishment or a numbskull half-wit, because he just informed us how we all misinterpreted his earlier post about Truth Vigilantes:

First, though, I must lament that “truth vigilante” generated way more heat than light. A large majority of respondents weighed in with, yes, you moron, The Times should check facts and print the truth.

That was not the question I was trying to ask. My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question. I consider this a difficult question, not an obvious one.

I think the answer to the second question Art asks is the same as the first: “Yes, you moron.  Don’t have a separate fact-checking column about it, just add a sentence pointing out that what was said was false.”

He’s getting killed in the comments again.  On the last one, he shut them off in the mid-two hundreds.  I’ll bet this one doesn’t hit the century mark.

Update:  A bonus for this post is Times’ Editor Jill Abramson’s note saying, “Of course, some facts are legitimately in dispute”.  Does the sun rise in the East?  Some say yes, others say no in a dispute raging in Washington today.

120 replies
  1. 1
    The Bobs says:

    Nice, “facts” and facts are different things. Colbert must be proud.

  2. 2
    The Moar You Know says:

    Comments closed and wiped this time.

  3. 3
    KG says:

    @The Bobs: well, “facts” and facts are different things. When a Republican says “it’s a fact that Obama is foreign to all things American and that he wants to make us more like Europe” that’s a “fact”. When an ordinary person points out that Obama has governed as more or less a moderate and not as a modern day far left Marxist, well, that’s a fact. Two totally different things.

  4. 4
    Jim C. says:

    I sent this to the Times.

    Dear sir,

    In your recent article titled “Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante” you essentially asked the question, “What extent should a major newspaper publication like the Times go to in order to call out falsehoods uttered in the public discourse?”

    The answer goes directly to the role of journalism in shaping the public discussion. The answer is fairly straightforward and is two pronged:

    1. It should point out blatantly obvious lies uttered by prominent public figures for what they are
    2. It should provide significant context on all significant statements that informs the readers to the extent that they can decide for themselves if something is true or not.

    The issue is, I think, that most of the mainstream media and print publications have in recent years is a fear of being branded as partisan. Most specifically, I would say that one-side of the current political discourse does a much better job than others of “working the referees” to ensure “balanced” reporting that, in essence, forces a arbitrary degree of equity that does not allow for reality. To get even more pointed, publications like yours are terrified of being branded as “the liberal media” and therefore, rather than acknowledge what is right in front of your noses – that Republicans are telling more lies these days than Democrats – your paper (and to be fair many others) results to a form of “reporting” that does a disservice to its readership.

    This leads many news articles to read like this:

    “Person A came out the other day and said that the sky was green. Person B said that the sky was blue. Opinions differ on the issue.”

    Opinions may differ here, but the facts do not. The sky is clearly blue. But to avoid appearing “partisan” the issue is presented as if there are two legitimate points of view on this subject. There are not. Unfortunately, if Person A pays no price for lying, then they will continue to lie if it is to their advantage to do so. Better reporting might look something like this:

    “Person A, a Republican, says that Man-made Climate Change does not exist. Person B, a Democrat, says that it does. The overwhelming consensus of the global scientific community is that it does.” If your readers still choose not to believe in climate change afterward, that is up to them. But you are arming them with a significant data point – that to the scientific community this is NOT an open issue – and therefore doing your job instead of just “reporting” what each side said.

    You can see this on many other issues that come up each and every week. For example, during the debt ceiling negotiations, it would have been useful context to point out that raising the debt ceiling limit was a routine thing that had been done time and time again under both Republicans and Democrats. Failing to do so would result in the U.S. credit rating being impacted, which would hurt the economy. President Obama offered several very slanted deals to GOP leaders that were historic in the ratio of cuts to new taxes. GOP leaders rejected it and the U.S. credit rating was impacted.

    Good journalism would have presented the historic context here. It would have pointed out that what the GOP was doing was unprecedented and that the offers the President were putting on the table were incredibly good for the GOP.

    Unfortunately, this sort of context and good reporting is rarely done, and when it is done, it tends to be done poorly with the goal of reaching an arbitrary “balance” between the two sides to avoid being called out as being biased.

    For example, Politifact recently rated a true statement, that the Paul Ryan plan would have ended Medicare as we know it, their “Lie of the Year”. They did this for one reason and one reason only: they did not want to have Republicans with the lie of the year three years in a row. The Paul Ryan plan ended the singleplayer plan that is Medicare and replaced it with a private voucher plan that is intended to cover less and less as years pass in order to free up cash for tax breaks for the upper income brackets. It’s analogous to taking away somebody’s Ferrari, but keeping the license plate (the name “Medicare”) and putting the license plate on a lawn mower and saying, “See? We didn’t take away Medicare. We just changed it a little bit.”

    By the current media continuing to refuse to report the blatantly obvious – that one political party lies a lot more than others – it effectively serves as a source for misinformation and not as a way to make their readers better educated on current events.

  5. 5
    JoshA says:

    What’s insane about his clarification is that everyone understood exactly what he was asking, and that’s why they hit the roof. The public editor of the NYT was wondering out loud if his paper should be a stenographer to the powerful or journalists who point out falsehoods.

    To repeat, Mr. Brisbane, “Yes, of course, tell me if the politician is lying!”

  6. 6
    KG says:

    But to the point of his question… I’m not sure how his intended question is any more difficult than his original. If someone says something that is a distortion of fact or otherwise stupid, yes, the reporter should point out that it is not true, or at the very least that it is not definitively true. Seriously, how stupid do these people think we are? And is it just a matter of projection?

  7. 7
    Jerzy Russian says:

    Jesus Hussein Christ. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  8. 8
    redshirt says:

    Technically, the sun doesn’t rise in the East. The Earth spins to the West.

  9. 9
    The Moar You Know says:

    @The Moar You Know: Hunh. Comments reopened. Dumbshit is getting crucified again.

  10. 10
    Martin says:

    @redshirt: Beat me to it!

  11. 11
    scav says:

    Artemis Theotokos, two own-goals presumably by committee in a single day. And arrogant to boot. I’m back to polysyllables.

  12. 12
    Comrade Luke says:

    Before another person comes in here and says “Facts have a liberal bias”, let me just say: fuck that. You can say liberals lie less, liberals are more fact-based, etc, but to imply that only conservatives lie is just a bunch of b.s.

    The above is just a preamble to my main point, which is: as an avowed liberal, I WANT TO KNOW WHEN LIBERALS ARE LYING TOO.

    Anyway, it’s really a minor point compared to the point that NY fucking Times of all places admits they don’t consider reporting the truth to be the utmost priority, and…oh hell. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say now, I’m so pissed off about this.

    Tell the truth, always, you fuckers! Everyone benefits.


  13. 13
    handy says:

    A large majority of respondents weighed in with, yes, you moron, The Times should check facts and print the truth.
    That was not the question I was trying to ask. My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question.

    I can understand (what I assume is) some basic thinking behind this: newspaper columns are only so long, and if candidates are lying left and right then pointing out those lies as such might squeeze out other content.

    But hese two questions are not as far apart as Mr. Brisbane wants to think. In fact, doing the latter is in service to the goals of the former.

  14. 14
    boss bitch says:

    We don’t expect the reporter to read Clarence Thomas’s mind but if he says X and the reporter has info that casts doubts on Thomas’s statement then YEAH the reporter should put it in the column.

  15. 15
    jl says:

    There is a sense in the air of interesting times with this guy as the public editor.

    Some one should ask him straight out if some hack editor made him pull this stunt. If one were cynical (hope that offends none of the innocent flowers here at BJ) one might think the NYT was publicly laying a pretext for shedding all responsibility for anything a politician says, no matter how outrageous.

    This would be a good year to do, since the GOP primary has already established that all sorts of obvious nonsense and lies will be emitted during the campaign. And the Dems have not even started serious campaigning.

    So, as I said in previous thread, why not have the papers referee publicly pre work himself (which sounds like myabe a little dirty, but that is OK).

    Now we know that even if there are mutliple public records of Rih Anhorumh very clearly saying ‘black’, he can get on TV and say that he did not say ‘black’ and its kind of a difficult thing to call, right?

    The Pro Wrestling style referee at the paper has established that trying to decide this issue is a deep epistemological, ontological, nay indeed, perhaps metaphysical question that he will be wresting with, and will be too busy to referee something like, say, Newt asserting that Jefferson personally executed dozens of judges with a sledgehammer, and that there is an established precedent for that kind of executive branch judicial management policy.

    This pre failed public editor’s clarification threatens to make wreck the whole effort through excessive public goofiness, which I understand is officially frowned on at the NYT.

  16. 16

    Reminds me of the SO: she asks a question about what I want, but if she doesn’t like the answer she just asks again in five minutes, repeating again and again until I give her the “right” answer.

    Tired of that shit from my lady, I sure as hell won’t take it from the gray lady.

  17. 17
    Wag says:

    I just posted this comment to the article in question.

    The difference in question here is the difference between verrifiable facts and unverified assertions. It is incumbent upon the media to not confuse the two. Mr. Romney’s assertion that President Obama has “apologized” for our nation’s is unfounded and is an outright lie, and should be pointed out repeatedly until he stops making it.

    Mr Romney’s action in making the assertion is a verifiable fact.

    The actual content of his statement is not factual, and should not be treated as such.

  18. 18
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    more aggressive

    Yeah. Judy Miller aggressive, only different this time; as in the run-up to war with Iran.

  19. 19
    marianne19 says:

    @JoshA–I just commented over there that “Some of us actually believed that your question implied that the Times might be re-examining its journalism-as-stenography model. So you are right, we misunderstood.”

  20. 20
    Birthmarker says:

    Isn’t this the difference between being a reporter and a stenographer?

  21. 21
    PeakVT says:

    I remember some columnist, somewhere, once wrote a column about how the press would report that if presidential candidate said the earth was flat, the press would report that both sides have a point about the shape of the earth. It was pretty accurate, and funny.

    Brisbane should try to dig that column up if he can.

  22. 22
    gregor says:

    1. How is it a question of being objective? If you tell the truth, it is by definition objective.

    2. Why is the question so difficult? A question cannot be difficult: the difficulty may be, if it exists, only in finding an answer to it.

  23. 23
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Comrade Luke:

    Before another person comes in here and says “Facts have a liberal bias”

    …please realize that the above statement is not saying “Liberals always tell the truth” or “conservatives always lie” but is a statement on the tendency for most conservatives to dismiss statements they disagree with, regardless of the factual nature, as liberal BS.

  24. 24
    Comrade Luke says:

    @Jay in Oregon: That’s fair. I’m just so annoyed that this NY Times thing is happening I can’t even think straight.

  25. 25
    Violet says:

    I ache for the touch of your lips, dear,
    But much more for the touch of your whips, dear.
    You can raise welts
    Like nobody else,
    As we dance to the masochism tango.

    Great post title!

  26. 26
    dogwood says:

    The nonsense in all of this is in the diction. Democrats love the word “fact” because it’s logical. We would be better off using “truth” because it better connotes what we really want to see from journalists. Tell someone he’s got the “facts” wrong and he’ll just spout more nonsense. Tell him what he said is simply not “true” and he will become defensive. If we want to turn the tables and put the republicans on the defensive then we best use language more effectively. Honestly, Democrats seem so clueless about denotation and connotation sometimes. Find me a real estate company that uses the term “house” rather than “home”

  27. 27
    jl says:


    Thanks. Very good post title.

    Maybe a little TOO good.

    Here is what I want to know: Is ‘Arthur S. Brisbane’ a DougJ spoof? And how did he plant one in the times.

    I need both pics of the supposed ‘Arthur S. Brisbane’, and 100 percent certain proof the name has no tie in to some pop lyric. Otherwise, I will assume what is the most probable case.

  28. 28
    Turgidson says:

    Seems like the end point of these “questions” will be to just keep doing the same thing, only in a different format. Instead of just letting someone…for privacy’s sake we’ll call this someone “Shit Omni”…no, that’s too obvious, how about “Spit OnMe”…

    anyway, rather than just letting him tell a lie and then printing it without analysis, they’ll now say “Shit Omni claims Obama apologized for America. The Obama campaign disputes this ‘fact'”… And then move on, thinking their work was done, and patting themselves on the back for such rigorous journalism.

    And I guess that would be a tiny, tiny improvement in that one instance, but it basically just puts different lipstick on the pig of their incompetence and inability to understand what the fuck people are so mad about.

  29. 29
    scav says:

    Here, I’ll link to Sherlock’s Series 2 Scandal in Belgravia trailer. There are more explicit and apt clips for the post title but I leave finding them as a task for the readers. Spoilers.

  30. 30
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Shorter NYT: Dear Readers, give us money for nothing and clicks for free.

  31. 31
    MikeJ says:

    I’d love it if Times reporters gave pushback even on matters that some would call opinion, provided they did it to everyone. Every time some right wing nut job calls Obama a Marxist, I’d like the reporter to ask the person to define the word and cite ways in which it is applicable.

  32. 32
    trollhattan says:

    @ mistermix

    Kudos, sir, on the Tom Lehrer reference. Perfect for any occasion.

    [I see Violet beat {heh} me to it.]

  33. 33
    satch says:

    Fortunately for the NYT, truth and fact are not always the same thing. As George Costanza pointed out: “Remember, Jerry… it’s not a lie if you believe it.” The FACT is that Obama has never used the word “apologize” referring to American behavior in a speech. The “truth” is that Romney, weasel that he is, can always “clarify” his statements by saying that he “believes” Obama is always “apologizing” to the world for American behavior, and no one, he thinks, can dispute the belief. That’s also how the Jim DeMints of the world get away with calling Obama a “socialist”. It’s what they believe, therefore to them, it’s true. The obvious “truth” that DeMint wouldn’t know an actual socialist if one jammed a red flag up his ass while singing “The Internationale” is defendable because it’s my belief. I have to quit now… I’m all out of scare quotes.

  34. 34
    dr. bloor says:

    Of course, all those rude comments Mr. Brisbane has received from people with working gray matter will perfectly counterbalance the ongoing flood of letters they get from right-wing ideologues accusing the Times of being a librul rag.

    Which will reinforce their fantasy that they are doing a great job.

  35. 35
    jl says:

    @scav: The times public editor does his research with a tall, beautiful, naked dominatrix who is into kinky sex? I did not know that.

    I’m going to apply for the job. I think there will be an opening soon.

  36. 36
    Quarks says:

    ….and they’ve shut down comments again. Geesh.

  37. 37
    Brachiator says:

    That was not the question I was trying to ask. My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question.

    All right. Treating this semi seriously, the NY Times site has lots of room. There are all kinds of ways to report the main info and also rebut the “facts,” as part of the story, next to the story, etc. They have the room, the time, the opportunity and the resources.

    Or how about this, print the goddam story, print the lies in red type with an asterisk and a footnote saying “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

    Again, that the Times editors think this is an issue is freaking astounding.

  38. 38
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Art is a fucktard.

    Wow, that’s fucking surprising.

    He and Abrahamson have both earned their tumbrel rides, as firm lickspittles of the people of the lie.

  39. 39
    scav says:

    @jl: They don’t wear any pants either.

  40. 40
    Clem says:

    What I can’t understand is how he couples his arrogant dressing down of his readers with praise for Greg Sargent’s response…which was making the exact same points that his readers were.

  41. 41
    smintheus says:

    Sen. Joseph McCarthy knew how to game the reporters of his day who didn’t think it their business to explain when he was spewing nonsense. Have journalists learned nothing at all in the intervening 60 years?

  42. 42
    dogwood says:

    Absolutely, The NYT prints facts all the time. It’s a fact that Candidate A said blah, blah, blah. So what? How does that help me as a citizen? I want to know if what he said is true. And if I have to go elsewhere to find the truth, why in the fuck would I buy the NYT or any other newspaper for that matter? At the rate we’re going we’ll be spending all our time “truth checking” politicians, hiring and firing our health care providers, and finding the best deal in the private sector for mail delivery, garbage collection, and fire protection. Liberty, ain’t it great.

  43. 43

    Judith Miller.

    The word “torture”.

    Too expensive to be fishwrap.

    On the other hand, Krugman and Nate. But for news? Fuck the NYT.

  44. 44
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Masochist to sadist: “Beat me!”

    Sadist to masochist: “No!”

  45. 45
    balconesfault says:

    @Turgidson: Actually, I’d find it refreshing if instead of reporting “Romney said it’s time for Obama to stop apologizing for America”, they wrote it by saying “Romney made the claim that Obama has been apologizing for America”. A few of those would start to land.

  46. 46
    jl says:

    keep this link handy next time the public editor shares his thoughts, its a better use of time, and humor is more wholesome.

    Monty Python Spectrum sketch

  47. 47
    dogwood says:

    @The Bobs:

    Nice, “facts” and facts are different things. Colbert must be proud.

    I’m sure he is. But it’s not a coincidence that he refers to this phenonomen as “truthiness” rather than “factiness”. He’s not afraid to call a liar a liar.

  48. 48
    PGfan says:

    I was just about to post a comment on Brisbane’s second posting and comments were closed! Per my browser, there were only 46 comments. (Unless I’m missing something.)

    What I wanted to say was, not only should there be fact checking, there should also be “disclosure” about experts, sources, etc. So many articles quote people without adding whether or not the person quoted has an axe to grind or skin in the game or whatever. This is across all traditional media. When someone supports something, and is quoted presumably because they have some stature that makes their opinion worthwhile, then the fact that they will personally benefit or profit if their favored position wins the day should also be reported. OR they shouldn’t be quoted in the first place.

  49. 49
    dogwood says:


    You win big-time with that one.

  50. 50
    Rafer Janders says:

    Update: A bonus for this post is Times’ Editor Jill Abramson’s note saying, “Of course, some facts are legitimately in dispute”.


    No, facts are never legitimately in dispute. A fact is a fact.

    Questions of fact, on the other hand, can be legitimately in dispute. There are some things we don’t know for sure because we have imperfect information, or we’re trying to infer the facts from clues and guesswork, or there were no eyewitnesses, or the historical record is not intact, or the records were destroyed, etc. etc. Things like did Oswald have accomplices, how many votes were not counted in Florida in 2000, who’s behind the terrorist bombing murders of scientists in Iran, what did Nixon know and when did he know it, what’s the real state of Italy’s finances, etc. — these are questions of fact.

    But once a fact is established as a fact, then by definition it’s not in dispute. If on the other hand there is a dispute then it’s a not a fact to begin with, is it?

    You’d think a NYT editor would tread a little more carefully in tossing around vague language like that…

  51. 51

    46 comments and they’ve shut it off again.

    Probably because a lot of them are along the lines of “print the truth, you morons.”

  52. 52
    joes527 says:

    I was going to comment at the source, but (surprise surprise) comments are closed.

    That was not the question I was trying to ask. My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question.

    The piece missing here. is the whole concept of evidence. He is asking whether journalists should rebut what newsmakers say when what they say is “in question” (scare quotes mine) The question that he should have asked was: whether journalists should rebut what newsmakers say when there is evidence to the contrary. And then the answer just flows: of course you should, you moron.

    But shifting to using evidence as the basis of rebutting facts rather the facts being “in question ” (again , my scare quotes) clears up his scenarios nicely.

    Whether Clarence Thomas honestly didn’t understand the simple instructions is clearly “in question” but the Times should be aggressively rebutting things like this only if there is evidence that shows it isn’t true.

    The “Obama is apologizer in chief” claim is “in question,” AND there is evidence in the public record that can be referenced, so the Times should be all about presenting that evidence in their columns.

    See how easy that was? What did they teach you in journalismstenography school?

  53. 53
    gogol's wife says:

    @Jim C.:

    Excellent. But he won’t pay any attention.

  54. 54
    Amir Khalid says:

    The thing that Arthur Brisbane doesn’t get is that readers expect — rightly — that dubious assertions, let alone outright falsehoods, shall not go unchallenged in the New York Times’ news reports. The dubiousness of dubious statements must be indicated. Misstatements of fact must be called out. As must disingenuous argument and attempts at spin. If a fact or conclusion is in dispute, report the dispute. Always. If you piss somebody off by justifiably casting doubt on their word, too bad for them; your duty is to the reader.

    From a journo-ethics point of view, this is not a difficult question at all. What shocks Brisbane’s readers is that he’s trying to manufacture ethical difficulty where none exists.

  55. 55
    JPL says:

    Jill Abramson erred in my opinion also
    On the other hand, in Romney’s defense, we quickly explained in detail the true context of his “I like being able to fire people” quote — that he was talking about choosing an insurance company, not firing workers…………………

    Can you just fire your health insurance company? Most companies offer a few choices but then you are locked in for at least a year. If you have attained health insurance on your own and acquire a health issue, can you just fire the company and call another company? His statement was false. He needs to try to find health insurance for his wife.

  56. 56
    satby says:

    This thread has more comments than they allowed on the NYT.
    So they’re stenographers and cowards. But I repeat myself.

  57. 57
    pseudonymous in nc says:


    Actually, I’d find it refreshing if instead of reporting “Romney said it’s time for Obama to stop apologizing for America”, they wrote it by saying “Romney made the claim that Obama has been apologizing for America”. A few of those would start to land.

    Or “Romney asserted”. I liked the comment in an earlier thread about how German newspapers use the subjunctive voice for anything a politician says. Perhaps the NYT could use a different font style for such things in its online publishing — say, Comic Sans?

  58. 58
    JGabriel says:


    Technically, the sun doesn’t rise in the East. The Earth spins to the West.

    Depends on whether you’re taking a heliocentric or geocentric view.

    Since we’re speaking of the relation of sunlight to the perspective of a typically earth-bound observer (excluding air travel), a geocentric perspective is probably more relevant to the casual reader’s experience, and therefore acceptable, despite the scientific consensus, with which I generally agree, that the solar system is best described in heliocentric terms for most purposes.


  59. 59
    Brachiator says:


    Can you just fire your health insurance company?

    At Mitt’s level of wealth, he probably can fire his health insurance company.

    His statement may not be false at all, but an indicator of how out of touch he may be with the lesser options that most people have.

  60. 60
    chrome agnomen says:


    add the word ‘unsubstantiated’ to the word ‘claim’. even better.

  61. 61
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    From a journo-ethics point of view, this is not a difficult question at all.

    The cult of “balance” in mainstream center-right (as distinct from e.g. Fox) journalism which plagues us today has as one of its assumptions the idea that the news media have an ethical duty to protect the legitimate interests of the people who they report on. That is an assumption which I think very few journalists from previous eras would have agreed with, in which a let the chips fall where they may attitude was much more common.

    I’m not sure exactly why this has changed so drastically, but I’m guessing that class solidarity amongst the top 2% has a lot to do with it.

  62. 62
    jl says:

    I think the public editor has difficulty expressing himself, which may be a good or bad thing in a public editor, depending on the nature of the job description for a particular newspaper.

    The only sensible interpretation I have of Brisbane’s question is: If a newsmaker asserts a ‘fact’ then the question is in doubt about whether the asserted ‘fact’ is true or not, should the newspaper be ‘aggressive’ in rebutting the newsmaker’s assertion.

    Well, seems obvious to me. If the ‘fact’ is asserted as ‘fact’ when it is in doubt, the news story should point out that the asserted fact is in doubt and it should find a few sentences to accurately describe the issue.

    And if the ‘fact’ is something that is not true, the story should print the truth.

    But, more I think about it, the more I cynically think that this is Brisbane’s (or his boss’s) effort to gut his tenure of any meaningful content. As I said, the ref preemptively working him or herself in preparation for the miserable lie fest that lies ahead of us. (But some say global warming is a global conspiracy by corrupt commie scientists.)

    To be very cynical, after this nonsense, the paper can turn any assertion of a doubtful fact into a ‘he said she said’ stand off. And any assertion of an untrue fact into a hunt for an arbitrarily credentialed factual judgment. (But Politifact said the claim that the Ryan plan ended Medicare was the Lie of the Year.)

  63. 63
    danimal says:

    I’m going to be Pollyanna and just be thankful that a decade or two after liberals started getting upset about the horrid nature of modern-day journalism, the NYT is starting to crawl out of thier lair and engage with the public. The right-wing complained of “liberal bias” for a long time before the media companies started adjusting their practices, maybe we’re starting to see a return to truth as opposed to truthiness and false balance.

    Stupendously arrogant twits.

  64. 64
    The Dangerman says:

    Note to Times:

    Please stop hiring stupid fuckers.

    Thank you.

    Edit: Speaking of stupid fuckers, Mitt Romney, envy this (insert two fisted finger pointing here), asshole.

  65. 65
    TuiMel says:

    Skepticism: How does it work?

  66. 66
    dollared says:

    @marianne19: Thanks. I saw that and loved it.

  67. 67
    Downpuppy says:

    An immigrant sweatshop worker can pull this “I was misunderstood” crap. The fucking Public Editor of the New York Times is kinda supposed to be able to write understandably, isn’t he? Or is that another Old Journalism standard that they’ve moved beyond?

  68. 68
    dollared says:

    @jl: Obviously, Arthur S. Brisbane is a Monty Python character. Used to own a dead parrot, as I recall.

  69. 69
    Yevgraf says:

    OT – Freedom’s Walrus has endorsed Mittens.

    FReeper tears taste like unicorn milk.

  70. 70
    jl says:


    What is life like for a public editor at a major US newspaper? This tragic one act play springs to mind.

    Monty Python: Marriage counselor

  71. 71
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Why is anyone surprised? This is the paper that gave you Walter Duranty, and to this day has not returned nor repudiated his Pulitzer.

  72. 72
    Violet says:

    Good stuff from Vanity Fair:

    Should Vanity Fair Be a Spelling Vigilante?
    Just as New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane is concerned whether his newspaper is printing lies or the truth, we here at V.F. looking for reader input on whether and when Vanity Fair should spell “words” correctly in the stories we publish.
    One example: the word “maintenance” seems like it should only have one “a” in it. It should be “maintenence,” right? But it’s not. So is it our job as reporters and editors to spell it correctly?
    Another example: who decides “Michele Bachmann” should be spelled with one “l” in “Michele” and two “n”s in “Bachmann”? I’ve never seen it spelled like that in any other circumstance, so should we print it just because that’s how she spells it? I don’t know.
    As one reader recently wrote in a message to the spelling editor:
    “My question is what role the magazine’s news coverage should play with regard to stupidly spelled words. In general, Vanity Fair spells stuff correctly, but sometimes words just look wrong. ‘Broccoli,’ for instance, looks dumb. If a magazine’s overarching goal is to be correct, but something makes you do a double-take because it just looks so bad, should Vanity Fair just let these oddities stand?”
    Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can Vanity Fair do this in a way that is objective and fair? Whose job is it to decide what words look strange and what words just look fancy? And at what point does an exotic extra consonant become distracting?


    h/t Fallows

  73. 73
    opie jeanne says:

    @boss bitch: The Scalia interview on NPR several years ago, I think it was Terry Gross who interviewed him. She asked him some questions about a couple of rulings that did not adhere to his ideal of Constitutional “purity” (can’t think what he called it), that were things that the Republicans wanted. He denied that he had ruled that way at all, blah blah blah.

    Af the end of the interview and after he was off the set, she listed the cases by names and the dates.

    I laughed.

  74. 74
    fleeting expletive says:

    I’d like to see some rigorous standard at the TImes for anonymous sources, too. Pet peeve of mine, most of the time.

  75. 75
    JPL says:

    @Brachiator: IMO..The NYTimes should write a story about that. I’d pay to read an article about how easy it is to fire your health insurance company especially if you work at a corporation or have a preexisting condition. Maybe they could even call and see how much coverage would be if you have MS.

  76. 76
    joes527 says:


    that the solar system is best described in heliocentric terms for most purposes.

    Yeah, well I find geocentric driving directions to be a whole hell of a lot easier to deal with than heliocentroc directions would be.

  77. 77
    Cat Lady says:


    All of Mitten’s endorsements read and look like those hostage videos where you don’t see the hooded kidnapper right off camera pointing the sniper rifle at the captive reciting the confession. His checkbook must be getting quite a workout.

  78. 78
    Egg Berry says:

    If all 260 commenters on the original article and half of Twitter think you’re saying X and you maintain you were really saying Y … UR DOIN IT WRONG!

    Maybe this journalism thing just isn’t your bag.

  79. 79
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    Tom Lehrer!

  80. 80
    jl says:

    Also, too, recent developments in public editorshippersonship make this Daily Show skit sadly dated.

  81. 81
    Donut says:

    I didn’t bother commenting on the original post, but my questIon back to this fool would have been, “at what point does it NOT benefit your readership to fail to aggrssively rebut “facts” that are offered by “newsmakers”?

    I think the answer is obvious and his attitude from the get-go belies the fact that he knows the media culture is sick and he is merely engaged in a circle jerk.

    I mean, the point is, who the fuck is the media serving, otherwise? Who is the actual customer here? Advertisers or readers? Duh. The answer is totally fucking obvious. Why he wants to pretend otherwise is open to debate.

  82. 82
    dollared says:

    @jl: You win!

  83. 83
    Soonergrunt says:

    @The Moar You Know: There’s about 46 comments as of this writing. The top one being:

    No, we got it the first time. And the answer is still “yes, you moron”.

    When “facts” are actually “lies”, you owe it to your readers to point this out. How is this not obvious?

  84. 84
    KG says:

    @Yevgraf: that’s something to see there.

  85. 85
    Tom says:

    I agree completely with Brisbane. I think people are missing the point, or at least HIS point.

    Once reporters start questions factual claims by newsmakers, then a report ceases being straight knowledge to absorb and turns into something more slanted and editorialized. I prefer just straight reporting that allows the reader to make their own opinion of what has been said. I don’t mind the reporter adding factual context to claims, but I’m amazed that critics don’t get that there are many “truths” out there that are in dispute and it’s a tricky proposition to ask a reporter to start weighing in on them while he reports.

    I hope the Times keeps reporting as it does now, while while continuing to provide investigative journalism, op-eds and news analysis. Those are all crucial to good journalism, as is good, factual news reporting that’s as “straight” as possible.

  86. 86
    Sammy says:

    Also, too, if someone has any type of medical condition, even a minor one, no other insurance company will sell you coverage.

    According to Mitt. I a person has kidney failure and the insurance company will not pay for dialysis, that person should fire that insurance company and go shoppinbg on the open market.

    This guy is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he sure feels he is the most entitled.

  87. 87
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Soonergrunt: And 46 comments it will remain, as they have closed comments. He was getting his ass handed to him all over again, and seems finally to have wised up.

  88. 88
    Bago says:

    It’s a question of added value, isn’t it? A flip cam post can tell you what they said. What value does a journalist add?

  89. 89
    wasabi gasp says:

    So many facts, so little time. Go have a doughnut.

  90. 90
    JPL says:

    The New York Times new motto

    All The News That’s Fit we decide To Print

  91. 91
    Special Patrol Group says:

    That was big awesome. Some nice comments from people who didn’t seem to get it.

  92. 92
    Heliopause says:

    Please understand, Brisbane is trying to keep it simple because, well, newspapers are deliberately written at a sixth grade level.

    First, if a newsmaker says, for instance, “global warming is a liberal hoax,” a semi-educated individual should immediately ask, “why am I writing a story about this moron?” If the answer is, “my editor assigned me this story and I love my job writing prose at a sixth grade level,” then fuck you. If the answer is, “my editor assigned me this story but I hate writing brainless fluff about idiots,” then quit your job, start that Great American Novel, and quit your fucking whining.

    Second, assuming you want to keep your job but at least attempt a minimal level of intellectual honesty then compose a series of factual, uncontroversial statements that can be instantaneously dropped into articles about, uh, “newsmakers.” For example, when Senator Fuckstain states that “global warming is a liberal hoax” insert the following factual, uncontroversial statement in the article immediately afterward: “The vast majority of climate scientists say that global climate change with an anthropogenic component is in fact occurring.”

    Third, if it’s just too doggone hard to do either of the above then please understand that many of us out here don’t, in fact, think about the world at a sixth grade level, so just be grateful you have a job writing prose at a sixth grade level and accept our criticisms like a grownup.

  93. 93
    normal liberal says:

    The post title is so apt – Lehrer went national in the mid 60s as principal songwriter for That Was the Week That Was, foreshadowing Stewart and Colbert by forty years. (I don’t really remember the show, but I can still picture the album cover. Friends of my parents were slightly startled by a 7-year-old singing Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.)

    As to the Times, what does it say when our supposed paper of record is led by someone who cannot properly define the word “fact?” It says we’re screwed, that’s what.

    (Wikipedia informs that TW3 featured Harry Morgan, Alan Alda and Calvin Trillen, along with Lehrer and divers others. No wonder MASH seemed oddly “right” when Col. Potter showed up.)

  94. 94
    Clem says:

    @Tom: The purpose of journalism is to inform the public. If public officials make claims that are not true and those claims are just transmitted to the public without any examination of their truth, the public is not informed. It is deceived. That population has no advantage over one that only has access to propaganda.

  95. 95
    Egg Berry says:


    Please understand, Brisbane is trying to keep it simple because, well, newspapers are deliberately written at a sixth grade level.

    Most newspapers, yes. Not the Times.

  96. 96

    If Brisbane has to ask the question, then he’ll never understand the answer.

  97. 97
    Palli says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: very good observation- the readers are no longer the public audience: readers are the customer and the newsmaker is the patron

  98. 98
    Clem says:

    @The Ancient Randonneur: Could not have been better put.

  99. 99
    Tom says:


    The problem with that line of thinking is that the NYTimes suddenly becomes the arbitrator of truth.

    And I have no problem with their editorial board and investigative journalists digging into the truth of claims and actions and providing facts to prove or disprove it.

    But when you’re talking about straight news reporting, aside from providing relevant information obtainable from traditional news reporting methods, I don’t think the reporter should be making judgements about the claims of newsmakers.

    Politicians spew bullshit all the time. The Times is often the quickest and the best at calling them on it. They just choose not to do so in the actual newsreporting, which I is a decision I agree with.

    If they start placing the editorial judgements of its reporters into its news stories, the NYTimes is going lose the very thing that makes it special. It’s just going to become another politically slanted rag… a NYPost. An MSNBC. Even though conservative love to rail against the Times, they still trust it as a news source. If they start editorializing in its news reporting, it would be a monumental mistake that I’m frankly shocked more people don’t understand that.

    In this world of opinionated news and glib talking head, the Times and other newspapers are a bastion of just plain old news gathering. And I shudder to think what I’d do if that went away.

  100. 100
    scav says:

    @Tom: Your logic and position will cut down on court cases too as most everybody insists they didn’t do it, whatever “it” is. No reason to drag in extraneous text like “he claimed” or “alleged” or “asserted” etc. “Is”, “Did” and a few other simple verbs will be all you need to remember how to conjugate! All those messy corroborating details just get in the way of ad space (in the case of newspapers) and time (in courts). Cases solved!

    How many bridges do you own exactly? News is what sources say it is without further examination?

    He may have a point, or at least come up with one but he’s that skilled at getting it across, which is another traditionally desirable competency in journalists.

  101. 101
    Heliopause says:

    @Egg Berry:

    Grade inflation. Even so, writing for high school sophomores is hardly something to hang your hat on. Maybe they could upgrade it again by claiming it’s written at the level of college freshmen in remedial English.

  102. 102
    Turgidson says:


    Yes, it would be a step in the right direction – I just think ultimately lead to the same dynamic as now – only instead of lies being reported without skepticism, there will now be lies reported with the caveat that someone disagrees with the lie. Which is much the same, except with some CYA journospeak to make NYT writers feel better that they did their job.

  103. 103
    waratah says:

    @The Other Chuck: I tried that but now I just give my SO two to three choices.

  104. 104
    grandpa john says:


    they seem to have learned who makes out their paycheck

  105. 105
    JustMe says:

    I don’t think the reporter should be making judgements about the claims of newsmakers.

    Newsmakers have plenty of resources at their own disposal to lie to me on their own. They shouldn’t expect the NYT to launder their lies for free, and I don’t want the NYT to do that.

  106. 106
    Schlemizel says:

    OT but I don’t wanna wait till an open thread.
    I was looking at the final results of the NH GOP Primary & noticed something interesting in the write in vote.
    OBAMA got 283 votes . . . in the Republican Primary. Those are write-ins so people had to go out of their way to do this.

    Thats more than Cain & nearly as many as batshit Bachmann.

  107. 107
    Maude says:

    Maybe journalism school is like MBA school. We had an MBA president and I must repeat, Judith Miller.

  108. 108
    Gilles de Rais says:

    FReeper tears taste like unicorn milk.

    @Yevgraf: Wow, they really go in for the wailing and rending of garments over there, don’t they? Haven’t seen that much drama since I was a lad in high school.

  109. 109
    Calouste says:


    For most media, the advertizers are the customers, and the readers/viewers/listeners are the product.

  110. 110
    Tonal Crow says:

    @opie jeanne: Terry Gross is a national treasure. She lures them in with a disarmingly mousy demeanor, then clobbers them with actual research and the courage to ask hard questions. And to repeatedly follow up all attempts at bobbing and weaving.

  111. 111

    V Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy.

    We are all Russians now.

  112. 112
    mclaren says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, now you all understand the motivation behind SOPA.

    If the elites can shut off that pesky carping from the Great Unwashed Masses like…you…why, that would make life so much easier for them.

  113. 113
    JGabriel says:


    Yeah, well I find geocentric driving directions to be a whole hell of a lot easier to deal with than heliocentroc directions would be.

    On land.

    At sea, it’s a different story. That’s why Galileo caught on so quickly among navigators — suddenly the star and planet charts made so much more sense.


  114. 114
    JR in WVa says:


    So you want American newspapers to be tools of the newsmakers, i.e. politicians spreading propaganda. No inclusion of actual facts, just assertions from people seeking office?

    No wonder people who can’t count to 11 with their shoes on get elected to important public posts!

    You were asleep when logic was being taught. The purpose of people going to school to become journalists is for them to learn how to explain facts that relate to false assertions made by “newsmakers”.

    When did the politicians get to decide what the facts are? And to keep newspapers from telling the truth about their assertions, when those assertions are clearly not true?

    Politicians are not newsmakers in a healthy society.

    And you have soggy contaminated sand for brains. Miss Keyser, who taught me logic in public school back in 1965 would be so disappointed in you!

  115. 115
    Groucho48 says:

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment. It’s not always easy distinguishing between a fact and an opinion. Take the Romney statement that Obama apologizes for America. Well, I believe Obama has said something along the lines of “America shares responsibility for this tragic situation”. Could that be interpreted as apologizing for America? Depends on how much you shade the meaning of apologize, but, Romney could certainly argue that that’s the way HE sees it. Then what? There would be unending howls of /outrage from Republicans about liberal bias and hordes of wingnuts in their basements will be searching the files for something wrong or unsubstantiated that a liberal said, that the Times didn’t correct.

    Things that involve science are much more straight-forward. If a right winger claims the science isn’t settled when it comes to global warming or evolution or whatever, it’s easy to point out that they are wrong.

    Political claims are much, much tougher to debunk.

  116. 116
    Applejinx says:

    This age of dueling quotes with no fact background passing for journalism must end, and it must end now. You are crippling the public’s capacity to understand that objective reality even exists. -Mark Eric, Conneticut

    That speaks for me so well. Seriously, objective reality is at stake here- the concept is not so much a fight over what that reality is, one side is running in the direction of ‘we get to do/say whatever we want or emotionally need to do and say, and nobody is allowed to attack us with that mean reality stuff’.

    It does rather blow my mind that it’s the New York Times dropping this bombshell. What about elsewhere in the world? Do we have actual journalism from, say, Al Jazeera or something? Is this global or is this strictly an American thing? I hope it’s not global.

  117. 117
    DanielX says:

    “Is the earth flat? Opinions vary.”

    Lather, rinse, repeat. And these people wonder why respect for journalism and the news media is on a level with respect for Sarah Palin.

  118. 118
    Tom says:


    I have a degree in journalism. So I’m actually well-versed in why people go to school to earn them.

    Your insights into my intellect and character aside, I’ll offer a response to your points.

    No, I don’t think newspapers should be tools of politicians. But I think they should report on what they say. I also think they should challenge what they say… that’s what investigative and op-ed journalism is about.

    This question solely concerns news reports, a specific type of journalism. And, as I’ve said, if a claim is made and there’s plain evidence out there to rebut that claim, a reporter should cite it. And I think they do that now.

    But the examples that Brisbane cites aren’t cut and dried. And the response on here and other places is pretty disheartening, in my eyes… very shallow, petulannt and reactionary.

    Brisbane posted some interesting questions. It’s a shame no one here can see past their own egos to thoughtfully consider them.

  119. 119

    […] linked and summarized by mistermix here: Apparently Times Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane is a glutton for punishment or a numbskull […]

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