Stop the Press! I Want to Get Off

The New York Times asks, in all sincerity, whether it should be doing fact-checking.

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.”

Is this really what it’s come to? That one of the oldest, most respected newspapers in the country has to ask itself whether it should be calling bullshit when a politician says something that isn’t true.

I thought the job of newspapers was not just to report what’s going on, but also put it in some sort of context so that it makes sense (within the limits of the format, of course). And part of that is mentioning when a source is wrong. Especially when that source pants-on-fire wrong.

But apparently people at the Old Gray Lady think that “he said, she said” is the same thing as balance and objectivity. It’s not enough to know what a person said; we should also know whether the statement is true or not. Or at least whether it’s credible or not.

To quote one of the comments, “the opinions of cranks and shills disagree with those of experts, and should be portrayed that way.”

It’s sad that the Times even feels the need to ask this question.

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One Response to Stop the Press! I Want to Get Off

  1. Troublesome Frog says:

    Brisbane’s follow-up was not much better. To use the phrase “truth vigilantes” with an implicit eyeroll and then act surprised when your post generates “more heat than light” is a bit rich, but I think that the examples he chose set the bar for discussion a bit high. Yes, there are gray areas, and his examples are two good ones. But choosing those examples is a lot like the makers of the Yugo pushing back against complaints of unreliability by saying that they were really hoping for a high level dialog about the technical challenges of achieving low earth orbit. Let’s walk before we run.

    When, say, Michele Bachmann says something absolutely disconnected with reality, just point it out. When somebody makes a numerically wrong claim, write the correct number and source right after it. Once that basic procedure is online, we can engage in all sorts of philosophical debates about the shades of gray and whether something is false or just misleading.

    The NYT probably does a better job of this than most, but most of the respondents seem to think there’s still a lot to be desired.

    Like

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