Unless their ombudsperson has gone off the reservation, the Times might take a step towards shedding that reputation as a court stenographer.
It sounds like a great idea. The balance bug has always been a tempting exploit for folks like the Bush team, the modern Republican party, climate deniers etc*. If you lie once in a while then you will get called out and embarrassed. But if you make shit up every day of the week then the press is basically helpless. Either they say that one ‘side’ lies more often than the other and look biased, or they throw up their hands and say that everyone lies a lot. They fear the former fate worse than death, so to serve option 2 they search like crazy to reasons to ding the other ‘side’. Having a sense of shame, the other guys get trapped in a state of learned helplessness while the ‘sploiters lie all they want because what are you going to do. It’s the system.
You fix that by fact checking. But fact checking has its own quis custodiet ipsos custodes problem. Fact checkers are only as effective as their reputation for fairness. If Politifact gives the GOP its lie of the year award three years in a row then their audience will take them less seriously for that reason alone. To protect itself politifact finds the most egregious Democratic goof that it can find and braces itself for the grief that it kind of knows it deserves. It turns out that the bug survived political journalism version 1.1 .
I would love for the NYT to fact check their sources, but I doubt that it will work as well as anyone hopes as long as they’re still running journalism 1.1 . Have you watched a Republican nomination debate? It might take two days before Jill Abramson feels the inevitable tug of balance and drives Bob Somerby further into incandescent rage.
I doubt that Arthur Brisbane, the current public editor at the Times, has a good idea how fun his job will get when the paper boots up political journalism 1.1 . For Brisbane’s sake and for everyone else the media would do well to come up with a v1.2 approach to journalism that does squash the balance bug without making the whole system less stable.
(*) I know, the Venn diagram is one circle with a bunch of colors in it.
I see that Mistermix and I both got there before DougJ.
Here’s a thought. Why not make these year-end awards more like the BCS? Do your best to ref each play fairly and at the end of the year let computers decide who the biggest chump is. It be a hell of a lot less arbitrary, it might kill the bias bug and it would give reported exactly the kind of horse race contest that they love to write about.