When the Truth is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Print the Truth

In a post entitled “Should The Times be a Truth Vigilante?“, The New York Times Public Editor asks a weighty question which requires serious debate:

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.

And by “facts” he means “lies”, one example being Mitt Romney’s constant, and false, claim that Obama has apologized for the United States. The outrage in the comments is almost completely uniform, and well worth savoring.






71 replies
  1. 1
    Brachiator says:

    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.

    All the freaking time.

    SATSQ

  2. 2
    Zam says:

    Isn’t that the actual job of a journalist? Or at least what they tell other people their job is?

  3. 3
    Emma says:

    He’s getting his arse handed to him by the commenters, too, from what seems to be both sides of the aisle.

  4. 4
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Zam: No, they’ve moved in another direction now, which is to reproduce accurately whatever the “newsmaker” (ugh) claims. An accurate rendering of a falsehood counts as truthful, unbiased reporting. Basically, if they write “said,” they’re good to go, regardless of whether what was said was even in the same universe as the truth.

  5. 5
    samson says:

    How about telling him that they might just print ALL the facts. For example:

    Romney says Obama apologizes for the US.
    Romney, when asked, declined to cite specific examples.
    or Romney when asked, said x. Here is the transcript from episode x.

    If they just completely reported the facts, rather than stopping at repeating the initial assertion, the truth would be apparent. They are freaking lazy stenographers.

  6. 6
    dmsilev says:

    Is there any evidence that the writers/editors at the Times actually read those comments?

  7. 7
    moonbat says:

    WTH??? I got out of journalism because of the creeping cronyism with the advertisers but I never expected someone from the editorial side to ask a question like that out loud, in print, in the NYT.

    In answer to his question: “Yes, you POS excuse for an editor, your whole excuse for being on this planet, in that city and in that office, is to check the truth of statements made by the people you report on and to tell the public when they fall short of truth. It sort of, I don’t know, DEFINES THE JOB OF JOURNALIST!!!!”

    /rant

  8. 8

    That’s not being a “truth vigilante”, that’s being a fucking journalist, for FSM sake! When you figure out a public figure is lying, you should tell your readers. It’s not that hard.

  9. 9
    Valdivia says:

    Just saw this in a previous thread hattipped by a commenter (BVeb I think) and couldn’t believe it. Just wow!

  10. 10
    The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I want someone to state, in all sincerity, to one of these dipshits “The sky is green, and the earth is flat”, and I want to see if they actually call him on that shit or simply ‘accurately report’ what was said and leave it at that.

    Fucknuts.

  11. 11
    gaz says:

    @Roger Moore: No shit right? What courses did this “journalist” take in college? If he had to even *ask* what his job was, than certainly “Journalism” wasn’t one of his core studies.

  12. 12
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Last weekend the NYT Magazine’s story on Colbert included a quote from Frank Rich about Colbert’s infamous speech at that DC Nerd Prom–“he decides the facts, and you ladies and gentlemen of the press, type those facts as he decides them”– Rich said something about that speech putting the Beltway press corps on suicide watch. This is somewhere between the suicide note and the desperate cry for help.

    (and Romney’s whole “apology” schtick is some ugly fucking demagoguery and it is long past time for journalists to “challenge” him on it)

  13. 13
    Zam says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Yea, I agree that is what they have been doing. But anytime you ask a journalist or one aspiring to be one do they not respond with some answer involving a discovery of the truth behind the spin?

    They of course won’t actually do this, pointing out that a candidate or other news-maker is just flat out lying or just not doing the research involved with making fact-based claims risks losing access to that person. Jon Stewart seems to be the only person who can routinely do this to a person and still bring them back (though in my opinion he has been too nice of late to the random guests he goes after).

  14. 14
    The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:

    @Zam:

    It doesn’t help that Stewart does this in the most basic of ways most times too: juxtaposing the person’s actual fucking words together, usually with video fuckin’ proof. Is it THAT fucking hard, you cretinous wastes of space?!

  15. 15
    The Moar You Know says:

    Shinobi pointed this out last thread. To say I’m appalled would be the understatement of the year. From the NYT jerkoff’s post:

    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?

    That this person could even ask this question – and seriously not know the answer – means we don’t have a “press” in any term that would make any sense any more.

    Cowards, cowards, motherfucking cowards. See if I ever spend a dime for any “news” ever again. Fuck.

  16. 16
    trollhattan says:

    Isn’t this like a restaurant surveying the public on whether they should serve meals, for money?

    Head: meet desk at high velocity.

  17. 17
    EconWatcher says:

    Slightly OT, but it was just occurring to me what devastating use Obama could make of Mitt’s tax returns.

    I’ve noticed that when talking about inequality, Obama is always careful to count himself as a rich person. When he was on O’Relly, for example, he said something like, “Bill, don’t you think wealthy, lucky guys like you and me should pay a little more in taxes, to make sure that less fortunate folks can get by?”

    Imagine how that sequence will play out at the debates if Obama is armed with Mitt’s tax returns, showing that he pays a much lower rate than the average joe, because of the lower rate for cap gains–and can point out that Mitt’s tax proposals would have him paying lower taxes still. Ouch.

  18. 18
    Tractarian says:

    “Truth Vigilantes.”

    I sense a meme here.

    “The brave truth vigilantes at TPM debunked Newt’s latest smear.”

    or

    “Mitt Romney says Obama goes around the world apologizing for America. No truth vigilante, he.”

  19. 19

    I wrote about this today too. I thought it was the lamest, stupidest question that has ever been asked in the history of journalism.

    But maybe it’s me.

    Fact checking is hard. Like, you know, if there isn’t a public record anymore. Or something. I dunno, let’s just go ask the foul-mouthed bloggers who say “fuck” a lot and tell them to tone it down.

    I picked the wrong week to stop smoking crack.

  20. 20
    chrome agnomen says:

    immediate problem for the Times: facts have a liberal bias, lies have a conservative bias. therefore, if the paper is going to honestly call out lies, the accusations will fall predominately upon the right. LIEBRUL MEDIA BIAS!!!

  21. 21
    evinfuilt says:

    If the Times actually started doing Journalism instead of stenography I’d probably subscribe.

    As is, I doubt this idea of calling a lie a lie will get out of this simple post.

  22. 22
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Do I have this right? An aspirant to be the most powerful man on the planet stands up and tells people things that are absolutely false–and the Times wants to know if that’s news?

    We’re doomed.

  23. 23
    sukabi says:

    The exercise proposed by the public editor is doomed to fail, as the public editor doesn’t understand the definition of FACT:

    fact
       [fakt] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact.
    2.
    something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact.
    3.
    a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.
    4.
    something said to be true or supposed to have happened: The facts given by the witness are highly questionable.
    5.
    Law . Often, facts. an actual or alleged event or circumstance, as distinguished from its legal effect or consequence.

  24. 24
    Mino says:

    Sometimes I wonder if those reporters even follow politics enough to ask the obvious question that exposes the lie. Some seem pretty damned ignorant.

  25. 25
    Mudge says:

    You mean that Judith Miller would now be allowed to challenge Chalabi?

    The result will be not to challenge the “fact” but to require the newsmaker to back it up. Reporters do not know enough to actually rebut a statement. So, when Mitt says that Obama apologizes, the reporter says, “Oh really, where and when?” And when Mittens doesn’t have a specific answer, then the reporter ask the obvious follow up question, “If you do not know of any instances where Obama apologized, how can you accuse him of it?”

    The reporter then gets a Professor Irwin Corey answer and is no longer invited to the best parties.

    If savvy, Democrats will be able to answer the when and where questions.

  26. 26
    Shalimar says:

    @EconWatcher: I’m not positive it would be illegal for the president himself to access someone’s tax returns, but it would be highly unethical. And it would definitely be illegal for a staffer to do it for political purposes. Nixonian, is one word for it.

  27. 27
    gaz says:

    As much as I’m disgusted that the question had to be asked, it clearly needed to be.

    And I’m encouraged that there’s like 160+ commenters on it, and THEY ARE ALL PILING ON.

    Hopefully the public editor, and the NYT take away some sort of lesson in all this.

    I know I’m being (probably overly) optimistic though.

  28. 28
    Shalimar says:

    @chrome agnomen: This is the NY Times. They will be accused of “liberal bias” about every single thing they print. Might as well do their job properly and not worry about things they can’t control.

  29. 29
    Interrobang says:

    The comments on that article were delicious. The article itself, on the other hand, is disgraceful.

  30. 30
    Larv says:

    @Mino:

    Sometimes I wonder if those reporters even follow politics enough to ask the obvious question that exposes the lie. Some seem pretty damned ignorant.

    Ah, but actual knowledge might cause them to develop biases, and we can’t have that. Somebody might even accuse them of being liberals. They must remain studiously ignorant in order to preserve their impartiality.

  31. 31
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Mino: my favorite anecdote about this goes back to when Al Franken had his radio show, and he was talking daily about the 8 billion in cash that simply disappeared in Iraq. At one of the Nerdproms, he asked Susan Page and her husband, another media bigfoot whose name escapes me, not only had they never heard of it, they didn’t believe Franken until he got designated Serious Person Norm Ornstein to verify it. On pretty much any left political blog, you could use the term “pallets” and most people would know what you were talking about.

  32. 32
    Violet says:

    Truth has a liberal bias. Truth hurts.

  33. 33
    BDeevDad says:

    What would blow my mind is if Wolf Blitzer, the King of he said/she said politics and the process is more important story then the content, had asked that.

  34. 34
    No One of Consequence says:

    WTF?OMG!BBQ!!!one!!!!111

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the succinct, complete, and neatly-wrapped explanation for the fall of Western Civilization as guided by the USA:

    Journalist: Would be public be interested in my profession including information about which public figures’ statements are demonstrably false, provably true, inconsequentially incoherent, or miserably misleading?

    /facepalm

    – NOoC

  35. 35

    Hai guyz, jus’ wonderin’, should journalists do journalisms? Kthxbye.

  36. 36
    EconWatcher says:

    @Shalimar:

    What I’m suggesting is if Romney ultimately releases his tax records, which I think he’ll have to under public pressure. I didn’t say anything about Obama using the IRS to get them; I don’t know where you got that.

  37. 37
    burnspbesq says:

    @Shalimar:

    I’m not positive it would be illegal for the president himself to access someone’s tax returns.

    It would. In fact, it’s a felony. See Internal Revenue Code Section 7213(a).

  38. 38
    BDeevDad says:

    What’s also encouraging is that the Times Editor lists his articles in the side bar and they average less than 50 comments per story, while this one has over 250 comments in a day. I’d say they hit a nerve.

  39. 39
    Satanicpanic says:

    Maybe they can get him a little suit with a cap on it, might make him feel better about his job

  40. 40
    slag says:

    If The Times is the vigilante in this scenario, I’m curious as to who the cops might be.

  41. 41
    PWL says:

    “….whether {they) should challenge facts asserted by the newsmakers they write about…”

    WHAT??? Why is the Times even ASKING that question??? I thought that that’s what good journalism was all about. No wonder Jim DeMint can make a an assertion that he later admitted “was not fact-based,” and the only response is ….crickets.

    All this shows is that if the Times–“the newspaper of record”–even feels the need to ask that question, journalism in this country is truly fucked….

  42. 42
    gnomedad says:

    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 do their jobs.

    Fixed.

  43. 43
    chrome agnomen says:

    @Shalimar:

    if only they did have a liberal bias.

  44. 44
    Mino says:

    @PWL: I think Senator Kyl pulled a similar stunt. It’s become a fucking joke. “Not intended to be a factual statement.”

  45. 45
    Jay C says:

    Wow.
    Just WOW.

    That anyone at the New York Times above the paygrade of janitor would even have to ask an inane question like this says more (sadly and negatively), in one short piece, about the pathetic state of political journalism in this country than thousands of outraged bloggers have done in years.

    I imagine that someone at the NYT is reading the comments, because they have already been closed at 265 in: I guess they’ve gotten the gist of their readers’ reactions, i.e.:

    “Of course you assholes have to be fucking ‘truth vigilantes’, it’s your fucking JOB!!”

    Or words to that effect….

  46. 46
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I’ve noticed that when talking about inequality, Obama is always careful to count himself as a rich person.

    The Obamas were decently well off before 2004, but not loaded. What made them wealthy — and we know this from their tax returns — was sales of Barack’s autobiography after his DNC speech. Michelle Obama said on the campaign trail that they’d only recently paid off their student loans. That kind of financial independence came late to the first family, and it wasn’t from a salaried job.

    That said, it was from actual work — writing books — not from taking borrowed money to buy out companies and strip the assets before hot-footing it into the night.

  47. 47
    Paul in KY says:

    @burnspbesq: I was thinking he might be able to if there was some compelling national security reason. Falling under his responsibilities as CINC.

    I can’t think of a realistic scenario here. Just musing.

  48. 48
    Karen S. says:

    I just clicked on the link to read the column in full and discovered that comments are no longer being accepted. They closed it up at 265 comments. I’ve seen other NYT stories with comments of 300, 400 or more. Maybe it was too much of a pile on for the NYT and Mr. Brisbane.

  49. 49
    JCT says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    Michelle Obama said on the campaign trail that they’d only recently paid off their student loans.

    Yup — exactly like my colleagues in med school, took them until their 40’s. You see, Mittens, this is what the real fucking world is like, even among other professionals.

    And he doesn’t have a clue in the world. Imagine all of the fun questions. Gov Romney, you want to dismantle the student loan program. Have you or any of your children ever had one? Do you understand how they work? Why do you think they deserve to disappear?

    But ooops, I forgot, even the NYT is confused re stenographers vs journalists. And LOL re; the comments at the Times, you can HEAR the steam coming out of people’s ears…

  50. 50
    stinger says:

    @Karen S.: I know — I signed up for an account there an hour ago just so I could comment, and only then saw that they had closed comments. Now I’m more peeved than ever!

  51. 51
    Kathy says:

    And the worst thing about the whole article is that it’s ALREADY closed to comments! WTF, indeed!

  52. 52
    RRoss says:

    Pol lies.
    Reporter calls him out.
    Reporter never gets another question answered or an interview.
    Publication loses readers when its access is cut
    Publication is forced to fire/replace reporter to regain access.

    Pol lies.
    New Reporter prints it.

  53. 53
    dogwood says:

    @stinger:

    I

    know—I signed up for an account there an hour ago just so I could comment, and only then saw that they had closed comments. Now I’m more peeved than ever!

    The NYT thinks simply posing the question is the same as solving the problem. They don’t care what their readers think; they just want them to think they care.

  54. 54
    gaz says:

    @RRoss:
    here’s what I’d like to see:

    Pol lies.
    Reporter calls him out.
    Reporter never gets another question answered or an interview from that Pol.
    Pol lies.
    Reporter calls him out.
    Reporter never gets another question answered or an interview from that Pol.

    Pol lies.
    Nobody is there to report it.

  55. 55
    Fleem says:

    I’m hoping beyond hope that Brisbane was trolling in order to prove something to higher-ups. Nobody can be that stupid, can they?

  56. 56
    Citizen_X says:

    You guys are all wrong. It’s Politifact’s job to do the fact checking!

  57. 57
    dogwood says:

    @dogwood:

    All snark aside, and in fairness to the NYT, he asked for reader input and after 250 responses by a margin of !00%-0% the readers concurred that yes, it was their job to check facts. At that point collecting more data would be redundant. If he asked in good faith, then he got an answer.

  58. 58
    dmbeaster says:

    The request was phrased as to whether or not they should be “truth vigilantes.” That framing of the question guarantees that the request was not sincere from the outset.

  59. 59
    satby says:

    @dmbeaster:

    The request was phrased as to whether or not they should be “truth vigilantes.” That framing of the question guarantees that the request was not sincere from the outset.

    I agree, like there’s something lawless and a bit out-of-control-mob-ish about printing the facts.

  60. 60
    pat says:

    Maybe they finally got the one comment that “I think you’re doing a fabulous job as it is, why change” so they have two different opinions.

    The point that everyone seems to have missed, is that if they are NOW asking this question, it means that fact-checking has NEVER been a requirement for a report at the NYT.

    In other words, the paper has never been more than bird-cage liner.

  61. 61
    jfxgillis says:

    Mr Mix:

    The outrage in the comments is almost completely uniform, and well worth savoring.

    And comments now closed. Tee hee.

  62. 62
    Beauzeaux says:

    @Kathy: You can still send an email to him (see the story).
    I did.

  63. 63
    mothra says:

    Thanks for directing us to the comments. They nailed the Times good &proper.

  64. 64
    under_score says:

    Ah, well lookie here, I see we’ve reached Part 2, in which the best defense is a good offense. To wit: “Some voices crying out for “facts” really only want to hear their own version of the facts.”

    http://publiceditor.blogs.nyti.....igilantes/

    Comments *are* open

  65. 65
    Beauzeaux says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Both books “Dreams” and “Audacity” sold in the millions. When they released their tax returns in 2008, almost all their income was from book royalties. I would think it took so long to pay off their loans because they both went to expensive universities and grad schools. Must have cost a bloody fortune.

    The Bidens income was from his senate salary and her salary as as college instructor. No speeches, consultant fees, etc. As I said to a friend, if he hasn’t managed to enrich himself after twenty years in the Senate, he’s either honest or dim. Despite being the target of late-night comics, Joe Biden is nobody’s fool.

  66. 66
    snaveca says:

    The NYT got what they wanted — two comments out of 240-odd that agreed that there really is no way to determine the “truth”, so just keep doing what you’re doing NYT!

    Now they can pat themselves on the back while they say, “See, opinions differ!”

  67. 67
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @under_score: Not anymore: “Comments are no longer being accepted. Please submit a letter to the editor for print consideration.”

  68. 68
    gaz says:

    Best thing is , 2nd to last comment on part 2* (right before they closed it)

    _______________________________________________

    Chester MancusiNew York, NY
    FLAG
    Will you close the comments on this post if you don’t like what you see, as you did on the last?

    ________________________________________________

    That’s gotta sting.

    *(Disclaimer: actually now that I’ve bounced back here I don’t recall if they are sorted oldest to newest, or the other way)

  69. 69

    […] 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 […]

  70. 70

    […] also: Adam Clark Estes, Greg Sargent, mistermix. Spotlight No […]

  71. 71
    Unsympathetic says:

    My money says the editor logged in under a new userID and typed those comments praising the current NYT approach.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] also: Adam Clark Estes, Greg Sargent, mistermix. Spotlight No […]

  2. […] 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 […]

Comments are closed.