Apparently the New York Times has forgotten what it means to be a “journalist” who “reports” the “news.” Because there’s no other excuse for this:
Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?
By ARTHUR S. BRISBANE
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.
This is not satire. This is the actual New York Times public editor musing on whether reporters should question the facts that they are presented.
And this just … well, it explains so much.
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.
Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?
Oh my fucking God. Are you kidding me? Seriously? On what planet does Arthur Brisbane live?
I’m sorry, I thought checking facts and verifying the statements made by politicians was sorta the point of a damn newspaper? No? You disagree? Why the hell are you people there, then?
Clearly when bloggers bemoaned the news media’s descent into stenography, we had no clue how bad things really were.
You know, I was going to write about this last week when Dan Savage wondered “When Do We Meet Elizabeth Santorum’s Imaginary Gay Friends?” He was addressing homophobic conservatives’ tactic of claiming they can’t possibly be bigots because they have “gay friends,” you know, the same way racists always have “black friends.” Elizabeth Santorum took it one step further, claiming she has gay friends who support her father’s candidacy.
Um… political reporters? Stop accepting homophobes’ claims of gay friendship at face value. Elizabeth Santorum says she has gay friends who support her dad based on his family platform? That is an astonishing assertion. Who are these gay people who support Rick Santorum for president despite his having compared sex between consenting adults of the same sex to child rape and dog fucking? Who are these gay people who support Rick Santorum for president despite his having asserted that gay relationships are a threat to “homeland security”? Who are these gay people who support Rick Santorum for president despite his opposition not just to gay marriage, but to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships at all (no civil unions, no domestic partnerships)?
Yes. And while we’re at it, let’s stop accepting Republican claims that they “know people” who have job openings but no applicants because unemployment benefits are too generous.
And a special shout out to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. Buddy, when someone like Bob McEwen comes on your show and says “Bain Capital hasn’t destroyed as many jobs in its entire lifetime as this president does in a typical 24 hour period,” (paraphrased but that was the gist of it this morning) don’t just ignore that and let it slide by without comment. How about saying, “Really? You’re not being hyperbolic here? You got facts to back that up?” I mean, Jesus. Next time you want to decry the lack of civility in our public discourse, look in a mirror, buddy. You let people get away with saying the most outrageous things on your own show that are flat-out lies, but it’s us foul-mouthed bloggers who are always the problem.
Yes, just remember: it’s the internet that killed journalism. Keep repeating that line to yourselves, news folks. It’s not true, but it sure feels good to say it.
Ha! I didn’t know there was a Republican drinking game about this. Thanks, Nashville Scene! Glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed politicians’ penchant for creating imaginary friends.
The reaction to Brisbane’s column was swift and strong. Now he claims he wasn’t asking what we all think he was asking. But I’ve read his response and don’t think he does himself any favors:
What I was trying to ask was whether reporters should always rebut dubious facts in the body of the stories they are writing. I was hoping for diverse and even nuanced responses to what I think is a difficult question. To illustrate the difficulty, the first example I cited involved whether Clarence Thomas “misunderstood” the financial disclosure form when he failed to include his wife’s income. No doubt, many people doubt that he “misunderstood” but to rebut this as false would be difficult indeed, requiring knowledge of Mr. Thomas’s thinking.
Um, no it doesn’t. It requires your reporter to ask a fucking follow-up question. Hello?
Recently I heard an interview conducted by a reporter with the BBC World Service and some South African arms dealer guy. Can’t remember his name, and I came in the middle of the program. But man, the first thing that struck me was how this interviewer hammered this guy, just would not buy his bullshit. He challenged everything this guy said, was very aggressive with his questioning. And I thought, Wow. This is not the kind of reporting we get in the United States. We get, “here tell us your side. Okay, now tell us your side. Well, that’s all the time we have! We’ll have to leave it there.” The truth’s side is never told. This is what we’ve lost…. if we ever had it.