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January 12, 2012 9:05 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times Public Editor asks "Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?" As of this writing, 98% of registered commenters are saying (often in all-caps) "Yes".
posted by oneswellfoop (169 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.
Isn't this what fact-checkers and editors are for? I recognize that there's probably more time to fact-check an interview than a news piece.
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every "public editor" they get is more of a bland mediocrity than the last one. You'd think they'd hit some kind of natural limit, but they never do.
posted by enn at 9:10 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not to be like a newspaper commenter [shudder], but YES.
posted by brundlefly at 9:12 AM on January 12, 2012


NO PRINT MORE LIES
posted by entropicamericana at 9:12 AM on January 12, 2012 [33 favorites]


Wow. This is like a doctor asking 'Should Dr. Jones Be a Health Vigilante?'
posted by spicynuts at 9:13 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Unbelievable that there's some kind of confusion about this on their part. There is no "judgement about what is false and what is true" for objective realities.
posted by odinsdream at 9:14 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Should the Times have let themselves get to a point where this is even a goddamn question?
posted by mhoye at 9:14 AM on January 12, 2012 [63 favorites]


No. Instead they should:

1) boil every nuanced issue down to two diametrically-opposed sides

2) give each side equal reporting time even if the one side represents a fringe opinion not shared by most people qualified to discuss the issue

3) assume a kind of faux "objectivity" in which news reporters are not allowed to describe actual facts but only to present the "competing theories" of the two sides

4) if by accident a news story should suggest that a fact presented by one individual might be false, immediately correct for this by pointing out that individuals on the opposing team also sometimes present false facts. Bonus points if these counterexample facts have nothing to do with the issue under discussion and serve only to stretch the human capacity for metaphorical thinking to its breaking point.
posted by gauche at 9:16 AM on January 12, 2012 [113 favorites]


"As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie."

Here's the heart of the matter in once sentence. There's not even an acknowledgment that one might "know" the the truth rather than just think it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:16 AM on January 12, 2012 [19 favorites]


Nixon: "I am not a crook". In other news . . .
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not quite the easy no-brainer that so many of the commenters on the piece seem to think. Newspapers do, in fact, regularly point out simple errors of fact. If a politician asserts, for example, that the unemployment rate has never been higher than it currently is or that 98% of the work done by Planned Parenthood is abortions, they will report the statement AND point out that it is false. The problem comes with statements like the one instanced in the article--about Obama "apologizing" for American actions. Sure, it's BS, but it's ultimately a matter of interpretation, not simple true/false. For the reporter to take it upon him/herself to "correct" the claim is to necessarily enter on the territory of essayistic opinion work rather than simple reporting. The usual way for a reporter to handle these kinds of cases is to seek comment from, say, a Presidential spokesperson. Although there are problems with that approach, they may in the end be less severe than the problem of encouraging journalists to offer interpretive counterarguments to interpretive opinions offered by the people they interview.
posted by yoink at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


So fact-checking is now the act of "truth vigilantes"? Casting doubt upon the words of the PR staff of public officials and corporations is the same as doling out punishment beyond the scope of the law?

You are a newspaper, not a conduit for press releases.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


This is what decay and degeneration looks like. There is nobody in the New York Times that even REMEMBERS what it is to be a newspaper. So they have to ask the public.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


Should the Times have let themselves get to a point where this is even a goddamn question?

That's why I, personally, have been so critical/dismissive of the NYT lately.

Interesting that there's more thought-out opposition here than in the paper's comments. We do overthink a plate of news here.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:20 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, the remaining 2% of commenters such as FAIRBALANCED1971 take a different view of the newspaper of record: "I prefer to decide for myself what's true, and not have so called facts like evolution and global warming shoved down my throat by the liberal media". Others such as RUSH4PREZ take a more nuanced view, opining "lol fuck your facts".
posted by benzenedream at 9:20 AM on January 12, 2012 [26 favorites]


This is what decay and degeneration looks like. There is nobody in the New York Times that even REMEMBERS what it is to be a newspaper. So they have to ask the public.

"Remembers"? This would be a radically new innovation in journalistic practice--at least in the post Yellow Journalism era. There wouldn't be any living person at the Times who could "remember" a time when journalists were encouraged to offer counterinterpretations to non self-evident interpretive claims by politicians.
posted by yoink at 9:21 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem comes with statements like the one instanced in the article--about Obama "apologizing" for American actions. Sure, it's BS, but it's ultimately a matter of interpretation, not simple true/false.

Let's just go with this for a second. Could you please point to any primary source for anything remotely like Obama "apologizing" for American actions? No. That's what we're talking about.
posted by odinsdream at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


As Glenn Greenwald tweeted "This post from the NYT Public Editor should be put on the wall of a museum to explain contemporary US journalism "
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


mhoye: Should the Times have let themselves get to a point where this is even a goddamn question?

oneswellfoop: That's why I, personally, have been so critical/dismissive of the NYT lately.

I think that the NYT are not alone on this point of dismissal.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:23 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


odinsdream: "There is no "judgement about what is false and what is true" for objective realities."

Yeah, well, you know. That's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by adamrice at 9:23 AM on January 12, 2012


"Truth vigilante"? Is printing the words "[false statement] is a false statement" now the equivalent of dressing reporters up in masks and tights and having them roam the streets, punching politicians and purse-snatchers?

....on second thought: YES.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:23 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


gauche, NPR already has that "in-depth approach" covered.
posted by headnsouth at 9:24 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is no "judgement about what is false and what is true" for objective realities.

That is actually not true. People disagree about what is reality. So odinsdream is a lying liar! See, isn't truth vigilantism great?
posted by John Cohen at 9:25 AM on January 12, 2012


Hey, should I show up at work today? I'm kind of tired and don't really feel like coming in. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.
posted by theodolite at 9:25 AM on January 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Instead of actually reading the "no" comments, I have voted for the slightly more quickly delivered but still equally painful process of slamming my head repeatedly on my desk.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:31 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The new style guide for the NYT is E-Prime.
posted by unSane at 9:31 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that the NYT are not alone on this point of dismissal.

But the NYT is supposed to be the standard for the rest of the Liberal Media to follow.

That and it gets at least one FPP on Metafilter every day.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:33 AM on January 12, 2012


theodolite has it, this is just screaming for a twitter hashtag trend.

Hey guys, I'm a software engineer, should I engage in user experience vigilantism and actually make software that is easy to use?
posted by formless at 9:35 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mr. Romney says he believes in "trickle down" economics, which Mr. Obama has previously said does not work. - Ashley Parker, reporter*

None of the above is "false", but this is a perfect example of the total obliteration of history going on at the Times. Romney is for it and Obama against it and there's nothing else to say? Thanks for keeping careful notes on Obama's stated opinion on trickle down economics, paper of record.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:37 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]




Hey guys, I'm a software engineer, should I engage in user experience vigilantism and actually make software that is easy to use?
posted by formless at 9:35 AM on January 12 [+] [!]


Absolutely not. You can't impose your extremist views on unsuspecting consumers.
Everybody knows that truth lies in the middle ground, halfway between a totally unusable waste of money and useful, elegant design.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:38 AM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


It may come as a surprise, but fact checking is a very recent movement. There are many unanswered questions about who should do fact checking, how it should be funded, and just how to present fact-checked claims to readers. (Here's another post on the topic by my supervisor Ethan) (more on Poynter about several recent fact-checking events)

Here at the Center for Civic Media, we're working on a number of projects to figure this outout. For example, my colleague Dan is working on "Truth Goggles" (here on npr).
posted by honest knave at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


lol fuck your usability.

Love, GATES4PREZ
posted by spicynuts at 9:41 AM on January 12, 2012


should the young rope-rider be a parent vigilante?

I'm looking for input into whether and when I should "take care" of this baby that is sitting next to me.

One example mentioned recently by a co-parent: our baby cried as though it wanted to be "fed". Another example: at night our baby seemed to need to "go to bed". Obviously, as a father he is able to make this determination. My question for readers is: should mothers do the same?
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:43 AM on January 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


So fact-checking is now the act of "truth vigilantes"?

Do we get to wear white hoods?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2012


Truth vigilantes? You mean beating the truth up in a dark alley on a whim, with total disregard for society's laws and values? Because the New York Times has done that from time to time.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:46 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


To take it a step further than Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish, the framing of this as vigilantism is very strange.

Vigilates, by definition, behave outside of the existing law enforcement structure. Maybe I am missing something but vigilantes are, at their most basic, illegal and illegitimate actors. I think that the interesting thing is that the NYT Public Editor is answering the commentor's question...
In general, the Times sets its documentation of falsehoods in articles apart from its primary coverage. If the newspaper’s overarching goal is truth, oughtn’t the truth be embedded in its principal stories?
...by labeling the documenting of falsehoods within the articles themselves as an act of vigilantism. Quite a dark interpretation, if you ask me.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 9:49 AM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


"I prefer to decide for myself what's true, and not have so called facts like evolution and global warming shoved down my throat by the liberal media".

Well, they shouldn't call evolution denial a "lie" per se. You're supposed to say "he rejects the theory of evolution which actual scientists overwhelmingly say is well-proven."

You can't say "He claims to have created 100,000 jobs. It's a lie." You can, and should say "He claims to have created 100,00 jobs, but can't offer any proof."

The problem is that they always print everything as a clash between equally-valid opinions when it's clearly not.
posted by tyllwin at 9:51 AM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


by labeling the documenting of falsehoods within the articles themselves as an act of vigilantism. Quite a dark interpretation, if you ask me.

Quite.
posted by gauche at 9:53 AM on January 12, 2012


So fact-checking is now the act of "truth vigilantes"?

Just like all criticism of the "Top 1%" is '"class warfare". We'll have to wait a long time for the NYT to fact-check THAT sound bite, since the paper seems to be having an internal problem with that.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Along the same lines as the above: “fact-checking” is not new. Fact-checking is literally the first thing I was taught when I joined my high-school newspaper at the age of 13. Writing styles? Interview techniques? Headlines? All secondary to getting your damned facts right. The idea that “facts” and “articles” should, by some bizarre leap of logic, be in two completely different parts of the paper is what's new.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:56 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Part of the problem here is that a lot of things that are considered fact by left-wing folks are, well, not exactly fact (or are in dispute).

Someone upthread mentioned "trickle-down" economics, framed as a he-said she-said by a NYT reporter. I think the preponderance of evidence suggests that supply-side economic interventions are of limited and diminishing effectiveness, sure. But saying "trickle-down works" isn't a lie, because it does work, to a point.

Economics has yet to progress to the point where a few studies can delineate something as true or false.
posted by downing street memo at 9:58 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, what "works" in a political/economic sense depends on first principles and one's view of an ideal society, neither of which are in a position to be fact-checked.
posted by downing street memo at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2012


Related: Dan Carlin's recent podcast about Santorum's visit to Meet The Press.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2012


It took the NYT less than two hours to close the comments on that post. Guess they got their answer.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:01 AM on January 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


...but I don't think anyone wants the NYT to say "Trickle down economics doesn't work." What I want is for reporters to go beyond "Romney says this, but Obama disagrees."

Of course Romney and Obama disagree. That's not news. Of course anti-abortion groups are going to disagree with Planned Parenthood. That's not news either.
posted by muddgirl at 10:02 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another odd thing about their framing this as vigilantism is that literal vigilantes set themselves up to enforce laws or standards when the usual authorised enforcers fail or refuse to do that job -- for example, when the police won't work to prevent crime in a certain neighbourhood. So who, in this metaphor of "Truth Vigilantes", plays the role of the authorised enforcer who's been asleep at the wheel? Whose job is it to separate truth from falsehood, and make the truth known to the nation?

I hope someone finds out quickly, because the people at the NYT apparently think they're not doing their job properly.
posted by logopetria at 10:06 AM on January 12, 2012


Arthur S. Brisbane is the readers' representative. He responds to complaints and comments from the public and monitors the paper's journalistic practices. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly on the Sunday Op-Ed pages.

I'm curious to see what he'll say in his next op-ed about this.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:08 AM on January 12, 2012


So fact-checking is now the act of "truth vigilantes"?

Damn straight. My new business cards are in the mail.

In all seriousness, I work on the mag side of things, but we check facts in a quote every. time. It's still a fact! If it's wrong and goes through, then either (a) the source gets mad at the magazine and thus at me ("I just spout things! I don't know if anything I say is true! You made me look bad! Blah blah blah!"), or (b) the magazine looks dumb and everyone gets mad at me.

Sure, with politicians it's a whole different ballgame, but I find it obscenely ridiculous and dangerously pandering to just let statements slide just because they're sequestered in quotemarks and attributed. You look dumb, NYTimes/newspaper publishers of America, when you print something blatantly untrue—and you also look like a pawn. We're already close enough to 1984, we don't need our newspapers politely accepting whatever crap politicians regurgitate into their mouths like helpless baby birds.

On a side note, I don't think there are actually fact-checkers at the NY Times anymore, but I could be wrong.
posted by good day merlock at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Economics has yet to progress to the point where a few studies can delineate something as true or false.

And yet it's still a real science in all the ways that count, eh? Sigh...

Writing styles? Interview techniques? Headlines? All secondary to getting your damned facts right. The idea that “facts” and “articles” should, by some bizarre leap of logic, be in two completely different parts of the paper is what's new.

My thoughts exactly. Fact checking used to be essentially the first thing you learned about even in high school journalism courses (college journalism courses, too, in my experience). The idea that "fact checking" is somehow new in journalism is nonsense.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:14 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


every now and again I wander over to the nyt site just to remind myself why i don't worry about their paywall, going over my free monthly limit or using one of those paywall disabler codes.

after reading this article, all I have to say is "thanks gray lady, i am good for the next 30 days. this article confirms why i could care less about what you publish.".
posted by lampshade at 10:18 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yet it's still a real science in all the ways that count, eh? Sigh...

It's a social science. Society is pretty complex.

Also, "hard" sciences aren't as "hard" as they'd have you believe, either.
posted by downing street memo at 10:19 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Should newspapers be a conduit for undiluted press releases, and if so is there any point to them?"
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2012


Could you please point to any primary source for anything remotely like Obama "apologizing" for American actions? No. That's what we're talking about.

Why did you answer "No?" Did you actually look? One second of googling will find the Obama speeches that Romney is presumably referring to. I feel pretty safe in saying that these speeches the ones Romney was talking about, because they appear in widely circulated op/eds by Karl Rove and the Heritage Foundation that branded Obama an "apologizer."

So there's your primary source. Now are they actually apologies? Let's pick the #1 apology on Heritage's list: Obama, giving a speech in France, said:

"In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."

Glenn Kessler at the Post writes, "That doesn't sound like much of an apology, more of a statement of fact that few international-relations experts would quarrel with."

It doesn't sound like an apology to Glenn Kessler. But it obviously sounds like an apology to many people on the right. For that matter, it may well have sounded like an apology to the speech's audience -- might have been intended to sound so. And to be honest, it sounds a little like an apology to me! At any rate, it is not, as Kessler says, "a statement of fact." It is a statement of interpretation. And it is crazy-talk to say this is not at least "remotely like" an apology.

Romney's characterizations of Obama's speeches as apologies may be intended to mislead voters about Obama's beliefs, they may be hypocritical when compared to silence about similar statements from GOP leaders, and they are surely designed for political gain and not some disinterested desire to tell it like it is. But they are not lies and the New York Times should not say they are lies in a news story.

yoink had this right 12 minutes after the FPP.
posted by escabeche at 10:29 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, how about they commit to at least fucking trying within reasonable bounds and not cede the entire field of "facts" to comedy shows?
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Should newspapers be a conduit for undiluted press releases, and if so is there any point to them?"

"I didn't take on a quarter of a million dollars of student debt for a journalism BA and MA just so I could piss of the masters of the social class I'm trying to weasel into by actually calling the on their bullshit!"
posted by spicynuts at 10:31 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


The New York Times Public Editor asks "Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?"

Over a century ago, long before any of you were born there was the Chief of Staff at the New York Times - John Swinton.

Long time readers of Metafilter may remember the last time I posted about him.


"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

"There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

"We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."


While modern readers may want the truth - why should anyone who is aware of history think that The New York Times has changed? (or that Mr. Swinton was wrong)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:39 AM on January 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


Leaving aside whether "it's crazy-talk to say this is not at least 'remotely like' an apology", what Obama said was not in fact an apology as there was no expression of regret. So Romney's claim is a lie and the NY Times should point this out. If there is space it should describe or refer to what Obama actually said, but it should not let Romney get away with this, even if it "sounded like an apology o many people on the right".

Of course I don't expect the Times or any other media outlet to actually change.
posted by Eyebeams at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


...but I don't think anyone wants the NYT to say "Trickle down economics doesn't work." What I want is for reporters to go beyond "Romney says this, but Obama disagrees."

And they do, constantly. Paul Krugman's op ed pieces, for example, are routinely among the most viewed, most emailed and most blogged articles the NYT runs. They will also run long analysis essays on the state of the economy that marshal arguments against laissez-faire and trickle down economics or which show the terrible conditions faced by poor Americans.

That's not what this is about. This is about whether a news reporter writing a straight news article about Romney touting trickle-down economics ought to interject untrained opinion to the effect that the economic theories Romney is espousing are a load of rubbish. I, for one, would not want that to become standard practice in any newspaper that I read with any regularity. And this despite the fact that I do think the economic theories that Romney is espousing are a load of rubbish.
posted by yoink at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some days, I toy with the idea of getting a Times subscription, get the news, dress up my iPad a bit, and which other paper would I really want?

Other days -- no. Between this nonsense, and yesterday's shocker news that online voting can be manipulated, I'm not seeing much worth buying.

Hell, I'm actively rooting for the death of print media if this is how the Gray Lady is going to be.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2012


The president, despite his protestations to the contrary, did have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.

Or,

Repeated inquiries with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services have produced no evidence of these so-called "death panels".

Or perhaps,

When this paper went to press, no historical record existed of the alleged cherry tree, which may or may not have been cut down by the young Mr. Washington.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The New York Times Public Editor's day job is to spit up information as quickly as he can gorge himself on it; undigested, undiluted, sometimes barely masticated at all. But by night, he'll not only swallow and digest, but then also sift through his own detritus, determined to reveal the hidden truths, discover the truth's last known address, and shoot the truth in the head in the final scene when he saves the hapless crossword puzzle editor who got a little too close to the truth.

David Caruso is The New York Times Public Editor.

It looks like the truth... is going down!

EEEYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHGGGGGGG!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:50 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talking about abdicating all responsibility for fact checking and just reporting things uncritically, I see James O'Keefe is in the news again.
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leaving aside whether "it's crazy-talk to say this is not at least 'remotely like' an apology", what Obama said was not in fact an apology as there was no expression of regret. So Romney's claim is a lie and the NY Times should point this out. If there is space it should describe or refer to what Obama actually said, but it should not let Romney get away with this, even if it "sounded like an apology o many people on the right".

Of course I don't expect the Times or any other media outlet to actually change.


You're asking for it to be an advocacy paper for your particular point of view. You want to see it adopt exactly the same interpretive filter on the world that you personally do. That's what blogs and op-ed columns are for, not what straight news columns are for.
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on January 12, 2012


Talking about abdicating all responsibility for fact checking

Absolutely nothing in the linked article has anything whatsoever to do with fact-checking. Nothing at all.
posted by yoink at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


“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.”
That's a really terrible example. Yes, call people out when they tell lies, but only if you have strongel evidence to present than "Obama didn't use the word 'apologize'".
posted by cdward at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


No. I want the paper to point out that a false claim is false. Obama didn't apologize, notwithstanding what it "sounded like" to "many on the right".

If Obama or any other Dem makes a similarly false claim , the paper should point that out as well.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:01 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree this is a stupid example, but striking an apologetic tone is most definitely not the same things as issuing an apology, especially not when you're the head of a state and an apology would represent a formal diplomatic step. These issues are not nearly as open to interpretation as some are making it out to be; we're all just incredibly sloppy and loose in our language and reading comprehension habits these days. It's not literally true that Obama apologized here. There's no apology explicit or implicit, though the tone of his remarks may have been apologetic--and it might be arguable that, figuratively speaking, he "apologized."

But this line of discussion threatens to send us down a rabbit hole of stupid linguistic hairsplitting (and I got enough of that in college the first time around), so how about this simple rule: Don't print politician's BS talking points as if they were news. Period. It is not news to anyone that politicians are saying things about themselves and each other that are meant to influence us to vote for them and/or against their opponents.

In fact, politicians spend plenty of campaign money on broadcasting those messages they want us to hear. Don't undercut your own advertising departments: Don't carry their campaign messages as news. Let their campaigns handle the campaign messaging. You just let us now in the million-to-one longshot it turns out there's an actual skeleton in that guy's closet. Meaning, at the point it becomes a real criminal investigation.

Otherwise, don't muddle the news and the campaigning all together as if they were the same thing.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:03 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Absolutely nothing in the linked article has anything whatsoever to do with fact-checking. Nothing at all.

The entire thing is an apologia for printing up whatever crap is served them uncritically. The tl;dr version would basically be "we surrender".
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on January 12, 2012


ack. 'now' --> ' know'
posted by saulgoodman at 11:04 AM on January 12, 2012


And it is crazy-talk to say this is not at least "remotely like" an apology.

The example you provided nothing remotely like an apology. I've spent the last 5 minutes reading that state over and over, trying to find new ways of interpreting it, breaking down, just trying to find the apology in there. I can't find it. Where is it at? How is it supposed to be an apology, and for what is it supposed to be an apology?
posted by BurnChao at 11:05 AM on January 12, 2012


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?

Just use the wikipedia model. Cite everything, don't rely on anyone's authority. Why is it that bloggers and op-ed writers can spend 10 minutes researching the facts to refute a politician but reporters can't?

The he-said she-said equivocating faux-objective bullshit that passes for reporting these days is what's killing newspapers, not craigs list and google.

If the New York Times wants my money and support, prove to me that it's on my side. Otherwise, fuck 'em, they can go bankrupt for all I care.
posted by empath at 11:11 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


And of course, once Romney and those like him are allowed to get away with one lie, they can be depended on to expand on it. Note that the "America has shown arrogance" quote is apparently the Romney defenders' best case, although it's still not an apology, as saulgoodman just explained. But why stop there?

"Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined."

Romney wrote that in his book "No Apology". So Obama has apologized for America many times! Truthiness!
posted by Eyebeams at 11:13 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


truth vigilante:journalist::NYTimes reporter:remote access production printer shared by several PR firms
posted by [citation needed] at 11:15 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


ama apologized here. There's no apology explicit or implicit, though the tone of his remarks may have been apologetic--and it might be arguable that, figuratively speaking, he "apologized."

Which is sufficient for the claim not to contestable as a simple matter of "true/false" fact. As I said above, the claim is BS, but the proper place to contest the claim is therefore in a "news analysis" column or an op-ed piece. A short parenthetical dropped in every time someone quotes Romney saying "We need a President who won't endlessly apologize to the world" (or whatever) is *not* the appropriate place.

Don't print politician's BS talking points as if they were news.

Care to cite a single instance of the NYT (or any reputable newspaper) reporting a Republican politician's claim to the effect that Obama apologizes as uncontestable fact? Of course they don't. They report on a speech that Romney made. They tell us that Romney leveled certain accusations. And that's fine. I want to be informed as to what a major political figure is saying. I can draw my own conclusions--thank you very much--as to whether the claims he makes are true or false (partially, of course, by drawing on the interpretive and argumentative writing that I will find elsewhere in the newspaper that will, in fact, analyze those claims). What I don't want is to have someone sitting on my shoulder as I read an account of what Romney is saying interjecting "well, you know, that's not really true if we look at what was literally said in that instance" and "well, you know, despite the fact that no two economists in the entire world agree about anything I'm going to label this economic opinion as false because I personally happen to disagree with it." Etc. etc. etc.

The entire thing is an apologia for printing up whatever crap is served them uncritically.

Speaking of egregious falsehoods.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the New York Times wants my money and support, prove to me that it's on my side.

Ugh.
posted by yoink at 11:19 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fact-checking is literally the first thing I was taught when I joined my high-school newspaper at the age of 13. Writing styles? Interview techniques? Headlines? All secondary to getting your damned facts right.

The problem these days is that for many so-called journalists today, the fact is that Person X said one thing and Person Y said something else. Those are facts. Determining whether either of those statements conform to reality is, somehow, not seen as "objective," particularly for a media cowed by decades of one of the biggest lies in politics, the myth of the "liberal media."

My high school journalism teacher told us that if your source lies to you, that's your story. These days I don't know which is the worse sin -- that so-called "journalists" aren't comforable with identifying a lie outside of an attributed quote -- thus muddying the issue as "he said, she said" and deliberately obscuring th truth -- or that they aren't aware they're being lied to in the first place.

(Here's a hint, boys and girls: Assume you're being lied to, and verify your source's facts independently. But then if you did that, some political claims wouldn't get much public hearing. Which, of course, is why the myth of the "liberal media" was invented in the first place...)
posted by Gelatin at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


To expand on my "ugh" above--I thought we disliked the entire model of Fox News--not just the fact that it wasn't on "our side." Obviously I was wrong. Fox News, of course, does exactly what most people in this thread seem to want the NYT to do.
posted by yoink at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fox news reprints whatever Fox news says as news?
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2012


NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen - and the "View from Nowhere" - and how it is f'ed up.
posted by spaceviking at 11:31 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on what I've observed since I started paying attention to politics about 20 years ago, here's my view of how the media and opinion-shapers operate.

Imagine the following scenario in a discussion of the composition of Earth's moon:

Republicans: The moon is made of green cheese!
Obama: No, the moon is, more or less, made up of rock

Fox News: Romney polling well in South Carolina
CNN, NYT, NPR: Republicans, President differ on views of Moon's Composition
Moderate and Centrist Media Figures: Well, maybe the Republican's view isn't entirely accurate, but it's not like President Obama is 100% right either.


Flip that around:

Republicans: The moon is, more or less, made up of rock
Obama: No, the moon is made of green cheese

Fox News: OBAMA WRONG ON MOON
CNN, NYT, NPR: Obama wrong on moon, Republicans say
Moderate and Centrist Media Figures: Can the American people trust a president who can't get simple scientific facts correct? If he's wrong about this, what else is he wrong about? I've agreed with him on some things on the past,but he's wrong here. And because he's wrong, social programs should be cut, taxes on corporations and the wealthy should be cut and we should invade Syria, North Korea, and Iran.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2012 [34 favorites]


Care to cite a single instance of the NYT (or any reputable newspaper) reporting a Republican politician's claim to the effect that Obama apologizes as uncontestable fact? Of course they don't. They report on a speech that Romney made. They tell us that Romney leveled certain accusations. And that's fine. I want to be informed as to what a major political figure is saying.

Then watch or read their speech, or watch one of the clips on one of their many paid advertisements also broadcasting the message.

The news shouldn't be reporting candidates hour-to-hour statements and rebuttals as if they were significant news events.

"Romney Slams Obama as Too Liberal," or any remotely similar pronouncement is not news. These candidates have campaigns for getting their messages out. If they can't do it effectively using all those billions of campaign dollars, that's not a problem the press should be concerning itself with, IMO.

The problem these days is that for many so-called journalists today, the fact is that Person X said one thing and Person Y said something else. Those are facts.

So don't report statements that people are obviously just making in an attempt to get the newspapers to carry their statements for them as a messaging channel. (A hint: Politicians during their campaigns tend not to be the most useful sources of newsworthy information and will gladly always make themselves or their opponents the story du jour if left to their own devices, without adult supervision, because that just makes more financial sense for a political campaign operation).

Obviously I was wrong. Fox News, of course, does exactly what most people in this thread seem to want the NYT to do.

I think what they mean is that they want NY Times to be on the public interest side. Fox is not on the public interest side so much as the public relations side that would have us argue endlessly over what the "public interest" is, to make it that much easier to redefine the concept in terms of private interests.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:33 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


To expand on my "ugh" above--I thought we disliked the entire model of Fox News--not just the fact that it wasn't on "our side."

Everyone is on someone's side. If the paper isn't on your team, they are on somebody else's. Objectivity is a myth, and always has been.
posted by empath at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fox news reprints whatever Fox news says as news?

I've no idea what you meant by that but no--Fox News mixes opinion liberally into its "news" broadcasting. That is, when it reports on, for example, Obama or an Obama spokesman saying that unemployment payments are an important source of economic stimulus, the newsreaders will openly mock this claim as ludicrous nonsense (despite the fact that the vast majority--although not all--economists would consider it clearly true). This would seem to be exactly what people in this thread want the NYT to do--they just want it to do it from the other side.
posted by yoink at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dude, you know when you were all "Speaking of egregious falsehoods" to me just now? Pff...
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on January 12, 2012


Everyone is on someone's side. If the paper isn't on your team, they are on somebody else's. Objectivity is a myth, and always has been.

Christ I hate that ridiculous piece of sophistry. "No one can ever be perfectly objective, therefore it's fine to write outright propaganda." It is certainly true that none of us can perfectly overcome our biases. But we can strive to be as unbiased as possible and hold that out as an ideal. The fact that it is impossible to be purely truthful is not an excuse for lying anymore than the fact that it is impossible to live a life entirely free of violence is an excuse to murder someone.

The problem with the Fox News model is not that it just happens to promote the wrong side. The problem is that it corrupts the very essence of what journalism is supposed to be.
posted by yoink at 11:40 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


empath: I like what Jay Rosen says about "objectivity" versus "The View from Nowhere" as discussed in the link referenced here. I don't think it's objectivity that's the real issue (and it's not really a myth either, unless you deny scientific reality).
posted by saulgoodman at 11:42 AM on January 12, 2012


I thought of a good example of what I, personally, want a reliable, unbiased news source to do.

During the debt ceiling debates last year, Rebublicans claim that their goal in opposing the ceiling increase was to lower the deficit. Democrats claim that they were holding the legislative process hostage.

Neither of these are strictly "fact-checkable." HOWEVER, it's a fact that the debt ceiling vote has little to do with the deficit - the deficit is increased or lowered through spending bills. The debt ceiling is like your credit card limit - refusing to increase your limit doesn't magically pay off your card. This is an important fact that readers need to evaluate the positions of both sides.'

This would seem to be exactly what people in this thread want the NYT to do--they just want it to do it from the other side.

This is a clear misrepresentation of everything stated in this thread. I don't want the NYT to openly mock claims as ludicrous nonsense. I want them to present facts, instead of presenting opinions disguised as "facts."
posted by muddgirl at 11:43 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


so how about this simple rule: Don't print politician's BS talking points as if they were news. Period.

Two examples I'd cite are terms like "partial birth abortion" and "death tax" -- loaded and factually inaccurate terms that contain a calculated emotional punch and, through constant repetition, have unfortunately become accepted elements of our public discourse.

There's no reason at all a newspaper reporter, at least, has to agree to be used as a vehicle for conveying and amplifying terms like these. He or she could refuse to run any quote that contains such doublespeak, if necessary substituting more neutral language.
posted by Gelatin at 11:43 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Fox is not on the public interest side so much as the public relations side that would have us argue endlessly over what the "public interest" is, to make it that much easier to redefine the concept in terms of private interests.

That is a terrifyingly authoritarian perspective. Deciding what is and what is not in the "public interest" is the very essence of politics. Is that not a debate worth having?
posted by BobbyVan at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2012


To expand on muddgirl's example, the claim about holding the legislative process is also at least somewhat verifiable: A formerly routine vote was suddenly salted down with all kinds of conditions, and even the Republicans nearly balked.

It's similar to the way "the 60 vote requirement for passing bills in the Senate" seems to have materialized out of thin air, but now appears to be unquestioningly accepted.
posted by Gelatin at 11:47 AM on January 12, 2012


People don't give the Other Side in our societal struggle this decade enough credit.

This is an AMAZING piece of semantic infiltration that will likely haunt us for years and years.

WWSD? (What Would Smiley Do?)
posted by Slackermagee at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2012


The news shouldn't be reporting candidates hour-to-hour statements and rebuttals as if they were significant news events.

The NYT doesn't. It reports on major campaign speeches and major events like the debates. And of course it should. It's not the NYT's job to think "hey, I guess our reader's can just find that on the internet if they want." And the claim that they just report it and leave it unquestioned is utterly and completely false. It's just that the reporting and the questioning are two separate jobs. The news columns report it, the analysis columns probe, question and interpret it. Reading this thread I get the feeling that the real problem is just that we have a generation who have never learned how to read a newspaper. Because you're just reading random articles off the web rather than reading the whole paper, you don't understand the ways in which the different parts of the paper articulate.

When the straight news journalist writes about Romney's economic claims, s/he knows perfectly well that the NYT reader (as opposed to the person who just takes that lone article off of Google News) will see the claims analyzed and criticized by Paul Krugman--as well as seeing them analyzed and kinda-sorta agreed with by David Brooks etc. etc. This is simply not the same thing--at all--as just providing a forum for the politicians to say whatever they like and refusing to ever submit any of it to analysis.

In fact, right alongside the news report column there will likely be a "fact checking" column that is directly calling out any absolute falsehoods in the politician's speech. The only thing the ombudsman is asking about here is whether questions that are more open to interpretation should be directly engaged with in the direct news-reporting columns themselves. I think it would be an extremely slippery slope to go down.
posted by yoink at 11:49 AM on January 12, 2012


I want them to present facts, instead of presenting opinions disguised as "facts."

Calling Romney a liar for saying that Obama has been too apologetic would be, precisely, an "opinion disguised as a fact." It's an opinion I agree with, but it is inevitably a matter that rests on textual interpretation, not a matter of simple "yes/no" fact. As I said, it is already routine for news reporters to correct matters of simple fact in their pieces.
posted by yoink at 11:52 AM on January 12, 2012


Two examples I'd cite are terms like "partial birth abortion" and "death tax" -- loaded and factually inaccurate terms that contain a calculated emotional punch and, through constant repetition, have unfortunately become accepted elements of our public discourse.

There's no reason at all a newspaper reporter, at least, has to agree to be used as a vehicle for conveying and amplifying terms like these. He or she could refuse to run any quote that contains such doublespeak, if necessary substituting more neutral language.


Are you from fucking North Korea?
posted by BobbyVan at 11:52 AM on January 12, 2012


Christ I hate that ridiculous piece of sophistry. "No one can ever be perfectly objective, therefore it's fine to write outright propaganda."

Look, even the words you use to describe something express a point of view. The New York Times, in the name of being objective, refused to call what the Bush administration did to detainees "torture". They put "terrorism" in scare quotes when they described the car bombing of an Iranian terrorist.

There is no way to report the news without expressing an opinion. They can't fact check anything anyone claims in the political realm without staking out political ground.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there is absolutely nothing wrong with Fox News. They have a point of view. They marshall the facts to bolster that point of view however they can. They often rightly call democrats and liberals on bullshit and corruption, and the only reason they can do that is because they have an agenda and a base that allows them to stand their ground. Do they also exaggerate? Do they flight out distort and lie? Sure, they do that also. So does the New York Times, and so does the Washington Post. But I'd much rather have a dozen networks like Fox News with various ideological biases battling it out in the public square than to have one network with some balls and a bunch of mealy mouthed cowards scared of their own shadows on the other side.

Give me a paper that stands up for the poor and the lower classes against the powerful, and I will back them until my dying day.
posted by empath at 11:56 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


How ironic.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on January 12, 2012


Calling Romney a liar for saying that Obama has been too apologetic would be, precisely, an "opinion disguised as a fact."

I don't think it's black and white between "entirely truthful" and "liar." Romney isn't being truthful in his characterization of Obama. That doesn't mean he's lying, or that he is a liar, and I do think news organizations have the responsibility to put that characterization in context.

I think we actually agree with each other, but we're sort of speaking about two different things. I have a huge problem, for example, with Politifact's "Lie of the Year" - I think it's spin to call that a 'lie'. And in kind, I'm not asking for the NYT to declare statements to be "truths" and "lies" - I'm asking for them to stop presenting he-said/he-said arguments as simple black-and-white differences of opinion, with no outside context as to why either party is saying what they're saying.
posted by muddgirl at 11:57 AM on January 12, 2012


The example you provided nothing remotely like an apology.

Look, if you want the New York Times to follow Mitt Romney's quote with a statement like "While Obama's statement could be construed as apologetic in tone, it did not contain the words "I'm sorry," in that order, nor did it constitute an official state apology," I guess that's fine with me. Do you really think that would be an improvement on the coverage?

I think saulgoodman is right. Campaign statements are not meant to be statements of fact, any more than the statements in commencement addresses are. Apart from a few rare cases, it doesn't even make sense to ask whether they're true or false. It's not clear to me why the Times has to report them at all. Lots of people are going to give Obama and Romney lots of money to make sure their slogans get heard. So maybe the newspaper can do less of this.
posted by escabeche at 11:57 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Calling Romney a liar for saying that Obama has been too apologetic would be, precisely, an "opinion disguised as a fact." It's an opinion I agree with, but it is inevitably a matter that rests on textual interpretation, not a matter of simple "yes/no" fact

Why do we need newspapers to tell us what Romney said, when we can just look on his website if we give a shit?
posted by empath at 11:58 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what "my side" is? It's the side of provable facts, testable hypotheses, and logical thought.
posted by introp at 11:58 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


They put "terrorism" in scare quotes when they described the car bombing of an Iranian terrorist.

(woops, Iranian Nuclear Scientist)
posted by empath at 11:59 AM on January 12, 2012


You know what "my side" is? It's the side of provable facts, testable hypotheses, and logical thought.

There are a lot fewer 'provable facts' in politics than you imagine, I think.
posted by empath at 12:00 PM on January 12, 2012


But far more than I see presented in either my local paper or the two nationals available at the corner here. I aim high.
posted by introp at 12:01 PM on January 12, 2012


Are you from fucking North Korea?

Not remotely. Since when are journalists obligated from helping one political party or the other amplify their talking points, especially when they're such obvious hot-button propaganda as referring to the "estate tax" -- which implies, correctly, that it's paid by the wealthy -- as the "death tax" -- which implies, falsely, that it's paid by everyone -- and moreover isn't the tax's real name?

What, exactly, is wrong with a news story saying
Senator Grinderbinder gave a speech today in which is said, "The [estate tax] should be repealed immediately"?
What's inaccurate about that? Or unfair? Though it does point out that the senator preferred an emotionally charged buzzword.

Reporters choose what quotes to push and which ones to ignore all the time. They should refuse to be used as vehicles for propaganda. The fact that they don't -- and that they report false claims in a misleading "he-said, she-said" format -- simply encourages politicians to behave badly, to lie, to use focus-group-tested buzzwords instead of accepted terminology (to the point that the buzzwords become the accepted terminology!), and they need no such encouragement.
posted by Gelatin at 12:08 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


No one seems to grasp the basic problem: conservative Republicans discovered postmodernism, and they're simply much better at it than liberal Democrats.
posted by verb at 12:11 PM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


There are a lot fewer 'provable facts' in politics than you imagine, I think.

But there are positions (*cough*global warming*cough*) that have much more real data behind them than others.
posted by Gelatin at 12:11 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, if you want the New York Times to follow Mitt Romney's quote with a statement like "While Obama's statement could be construed as apologetic in tone, it did not contain the words "I'm sorry," in that order, nor did it constitute an official state apology," I guess that's fine with me. Do you really think that would be an improvement on the coverage?

Well, at least you admit that you're wrong. Because that's what your statement is, right? An admission that you're wrong. I mean, you never said the words "I'm wrong," but it's a very clear admission of your own mistake and it proves that you were incorrect.
posted by verb at 12:13 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


But there are positions (*cough*global warming*cough*) that have much more real data behind them than others.

But that's a judgement call that reporters aren't remotely qualified to make. The only thing they can objectively report is that 'some people say this' while 'other people say the opposite'. That's why I say they should just say fuck the objective point of view and make a judgement call -- pick a side and push it, and put as many facts behind it as you can, and let someone else take a shot at tearing it down if they can.
posted by empath at 12:21 PM on January 12, 2012


Not remotely. Since when are journalists obligated from helping one political party or the other amplify their talking points, especially when they're such obvious hot-button propaganda as referring to the "estate tax" -- which implies, correctly, that it's paid by the wealthy -- as the "death tax" -- which implies, falsely, that it's paid by everyone -- and moreover isn't the tax's real name?

Why don't you have the journalist, I don't know, write an actual story that provides the necessary context for such quotes?

Are you prepared for Fox News to start bowdlerizing President Obama's speeches, searching and replacing the more literally true "illegal alien" for "undocumented worker"? Or when Senator Grinderbinder calls himself "pro-choice," should we change his quote instead to "pro-abortion rights"? How about "tax hikes" instead of "revenue increases"?

I'm not saying that reporters should be mindless transcribers of bumper-sticker recitations... but to suggest that they make it a policy to refuse to publish politically-charged euphemisms or expressions... or even worse, neuter such language post-facto... is to submit to the totalitarian impulse.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:24 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just don't report non-informative, confusing and non-factual campaign rhetoric as "news" and the whole problem goes away. No need to pepper every non-story with convoluted qualifying phrases that strain English syntax nearly to the breaking point just to have something to print, is there?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:27 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just don't report non-informative, confusing and non-factual campaign rhetoric as "news" and the whole problem goes away.

"In our top story, some rich Republican asshole said a bunch of meaningless bullshit. While he was doing that, here is how congress fucked you this week:"
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on January 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


On a side note, the Washington Post piece about Obama "apologizing for America" linked above contains this sentence:

"The claim that Obama is an apologist for America actually began to take shape shortly after he became president."

So, apparently, the Post's "fact checker" doesn't know what the word "apologist" means. I am not reassured.
posted by steambadger at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Why don't you have the journalist, I don't know, write an actual story that provides the necessary context for such quotes?

Because then the reporter is still allowing him- or herself to be used as an amplifier for propaganda. Which, as I said, only encourages politicians to behave badly, and they don't need the encouragement.

I completely disagree that accepting euphemisms -- especially objectively false ones like "death tax" -- is totalitarian. The use of euphemisms is much more an example of the totalitatian impulse, at least according to orwell.

And anyway, no one's stopping Senator Grinderbinder from using the phrase in his speech. That doesn't obligate a reporter to amplify the senator's phrase by using it in a direct quote.
posted by Gelatin at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, apparently, the Post's "fact checker" doesn't know what the word "apologist" means. I am not reassured.

My dictionary has one of the two definitions of apologist as "one who apologizes." Am I missing something in my reading of the Post piece?
posted by introp at 12:41 PM on January 12, 2012


What, exactly, is wrong with a news story saying
Senator Grinderbinder gave a speech today in which is said, "The [estate tax] should be repealed immediately"?


Because that's not what Senator Grinderbinder said. He said "death tax" and that's what should be reported. I'd like to be able to form my own opinions of The Esteemed Senator based on his actual words. If Senator Grinderbinder called a colleague a "lazy potato-eater" I don't want to read that he said "Senator Blankenflanker is [Irish]" I want to know what he actually said.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:45 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


And anyway, no one's stopping Senator Grinderbinder from using the phrase in his speech.

Well thank god for that!

That doesn't obligate a reporter to amplify the senator's phrase by using it in a direct quote.

But what if I, a reader of your newspaper, want to understand why Senator Grinderbinder has been so successful at convincing his followers to support his efforts to repeal the death estate tax?

Finally, I'd submit that your fear of words and your desire to control language through rules and processes is exactly what Orwell opposed. He hated unclear language that disguised or perverted political objectives... but that was an exhortation to writers to be more clear and direct, not a call for censorship by those whose job it is to record events.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:50 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's two different stories: (1) Grinderbinder wants to end the estate tax (2) His proposal is popular because he calls it the death tax. The NYT would argue that the second story is not a news article, but rather an opinion piece.
posted by muddgirl at 12:53 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


But what if I, a reader of your newspaper, want to understand why Senator Grinderbinder has been so successful at convincing his followers to support his efforts to repeal the death estate tax?

That's all opinion, though, and includes all sorts of unnecessary analysis that borders on insulting to the intelligence.

If a reporter writes, "Candidate This-and-that's poll numbers are up because he's been saying 'Senator So-and-So is a ninny' at his speeches..." that reporter is making stuff up and inferring causal relationships between events that are even less defensible and less grounded in fact.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:55 PM on January 12, 2012


The NYT would argue that the second story is not a news article, but rather an opinion piece.

Well, FWIW, PolitiFact would rule the first story a lie, on the grounds that the candidate never actually said he wanted to end the Estate Tax, but only that he wanted to end the Death Tax.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:57 PM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Zing!
posted by muddgirl at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2012


BobbyVan: Editors are supposed to carefully control the language published by the outlets they represent. That is literally an editor's primary job description.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan: Editors are supposed to carefully control the language published by the outlets they represent. That is literally an editor's primary job description.

Show me an editorial style guide that says that politically incendiary language should not appear in print, even in quotation, to avoid "encouraging propaganda" from politicians. That's what I mean when I talk about the "totalitarian impulse."

Oh and this.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2012


Finally, I'd submit that your fear of words and your desire to control language through rules and processes is exactly what Orwell opposed.

Orwell opposed politicians using euphemisms to decieve the public. I oppose so-called "journalists" helping them do it.

We have a tax called an estate tax. It isn't called the "death tax." Senator Grinderbinder is free to say whatever he wants, but he does not have the right to have the national media pretend that his phony euphemism is acceptable, let alone make it acceptable through sheer repetition.

Senator Grinderbinder is also welcome to make cogent arguments for why the estate tax should be repealed. I submit that "Republicans have been calling it a nasty name in the national media for decades" is not such an argument, or compatible with the democratic process. A sustained propaganda campaign is an instrument of totalitarianism; I don't agree that an independent press should participate in such.

As for controling language through rules, I'm afraid that's already done
posted by Gelatin at 1:04 PM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


My dictionary has one of the two definitions of apologist as "one who apologizes." Am I missing something in my reading of the Post piece?

What dictionary are you looking at? I'm not at home, and so can't get to my big boy dictionary, but I can't find a single online source defining an apologist as anything but a person who argues in defense of something. If Obama is an "apologist for America", then he's speaking in defense of America -- almost the opposite of what Romney was accusing him of doing.

Usage may have added a second meaning to the word without my notice or approval. If it has, I'm sad. In either case, please consider me an apologist for my snark.
posted by steambadger at 1:06 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Senator Grinderbinder is also welcome to make cogent arguments for why the estate tax should be repealed. I submit that "Republicans have been calling it a nasty name in the national media for decades" is not such an argument, or compatible with the democratic process.

Wow. That is an astonishingly authoritarian thing to say. You presume to "welcome" the democratically elected Senator to make "cogent arguments" and dismiss a colorful euphemism as "incompatible with the democratic process." You'd be great in a re-education camp.

I'll just take my news straight, with some helpful context when necessary, thank you very much.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:13 PM on January 12, 2012


The first duty of every reporter is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which journalism is based. And if you can't find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don't deserve to wear that press pass!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:19 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting. This whole time, I thought it was about facts...
posted by BobbyVan at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2012


a colorful euphemism

It is a sign of how far discourse has fallen, that intentionally manipulative and dishonest language is now just laughed off as a "colorful euphemism".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:22 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I once signed a contract with the so-called "Father of Colorful Euphemisms." Still don't know what to do with my 12-inch pianist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:27 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Death tax" is not a "colorful euphemism". It's a deliberate distortion of the tax's purpose, couched in emotionally charged, focus-group honed language designed to prevent rational consideration of the tax's merits or demerits. And it's a lie -- a deliberate and I daresay malicious lie.

It's exactly the kind of language Orwell opposed. Shame on our hypothetical senator for using it. Shame on our media if they hand his totalitarian language a megaphone.

And shame on you for accusing others of authoritarianism while indulging in a full-throated defense of propaganda, complete with a dissembling dismissal of same as "colorful euphemisms."

For starters, and I'm amzed I have to repeat this point, news organizations decide what to quote and what not to quote, what to cover and what not to, all the time. They already define acceptable public discourse -- badly, I might add.

As for taking your news "straight, with some helpful context when necessary," yours must be a long and lonely search, since the even-the-liberal New York Times is now on record as opposing you.
posted by Gelatin at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apparently NYT has distanced themselves from the editorial anyway, and promises that it won't affect their policy. ;)

Wouldn't want anyone to be alarmed.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one seems to grasp the basic problem: conservative Republicans discovered postmodernism, and they're simply much better at it than liberal Democrats.

Quoted for truth, and because I haven't had anybody I could say this to who would get it in like ten years. verb, you are a treasure.
posted by gauche at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is an astonishingly authoritarian thing to say.

Takes one to know one?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2012


No one seems to grasp the basic problem: conservative Republicans discovered postmodernism, and they're simply much better at it than liberal Democrats.

Quoted for truth, and because I haven't had anybody I could say this to who would get it in like ten years. verb, you are a treasure.


After the way the Republicans have deconstructed the Bill of Rights, they can kiss my Derrida.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:34 PM on January 12, 2012


spicynuts: "lol fuck your usability.

Love, GATES4PREZ GNOME2.XFORPREZ
"

ftfy
posted by symbioid at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Death tax" is not a "colorful euphemism". It's a deliberate distortion of the tax's purpose, couched in emotionally charged, focus-group honed language designed to prevent rational consideration of the tax's merits or demerits. And it's a lie -- a deliberate and I daresay malicious lie.

Surely the New York Times can quote the Senator, and then quote someone who will say "It's a deliberate distortion of the tax's purpose, couched in emotionally charged, focus-group honed language designed to prevent rational consideration of the tax's merits or demerits. And it's a lie -- a deliberate and I daresay malicious lie."

And shame on you for accusing others of authoritarianism while indulging in a full-throated defense of propaganda, complete with a dissembling dismissal of same as "colorful euphemisms."

That's hilarious. You're the one who is coming up with a list of words/phrases that should never appear in a newspaper, even when someone notable (like a democratically elected Senator) says them. You even went so far as to say that journalists should alter history, lest they be led astray by focus-grouped buzzwords. Why don't we just simplify things and set up a Ministry of Truth while we're at it?

Let me try something: The death tax should be repealed.

How did that make you feel? Are you suddenly compelled to oppose the estate tax, but don't know why?

If not... if you're strong enough to resist my calculated exhortation, surely you must be flagging my comment right now to protect others on the Internet from exposure to my illicit framing of an important issue.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:45 PM on January 12, 2012


Should Vanity Fair Be a Spelling Vigilante?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:46 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with saul goodman on this: Don't print politician's BS talking points as if they were news.

Repetition in the press gives these PR snippets/talking points the weight and authority of truth. Suddenly you have 100 papers carrying an unsubstantiated claim that Pres. Obama 'apologized for the US' in a speech. So as a casual reader and busy person, it seems true. Because you couldn't tell that kind of lie so many times without anyone calling you out on it, right? The press has to return to honest reporting, to being advocates for truth and transparency.

And by all means, let's get #truthvigilante going!
posted by Mister_A at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, at least you admit that you're wrong. Because that's what your statement is, right? An admission that you're wrong. I mean, you never said the words "I'm wrong," but it's a very clear admission of your own mistake and it proves that you were incorrect.

Right, exactly! What you say here is certainly a tendentious interpretation of what I said, and obviously I think it's incorrect, but if the newspaper quoted you as saying it it would be really weird to think it somehow required a "correction."
posted by escabeche at 2:00 PM on January 12, 2012


Surely the New York Times can quote the Senator, and then quote someone who will say "It's a deliberate distortion of the tax's purpose, couched in emotionally charged, focus-group honed language designed to prevent rational consideration of the tax's merits or demerits. And it's a lie -- a deliberate and I daresay malicious lie."

Yeah. They already do that all the time -- not.

...and even if they did, now you have old "he-said, she-said" ploy again, in which the NYT actually does present one side telling the truth, but refuses to tell you which one. Here's a hint: That isn't "context." The Times itself, meanwhile, prints a deliberate lie and doesn't name it as such, allowing the senator to substitute propaganda for rational discourse.

Meanwhile, lies shouldn't get a free pass just because "someone notable" says them. Far from it -- the fact that "someone notable", like an elected member of government, says them tends to give lies credibility, however undeserves, in the first place. The last thing lies need is the implied added imprimatur of the national media.

And once again, I'm not the one making up words that can't appear in newspapers. The AP Stylebook beat me to it, and again, newspapers exercise editorial judgment all the time and as a matter of course. That isn't "authoritarian," it's the nature of the press.

But given the remainder of your last post, I see why you support politicians arguing in bad faith, as you're doing it now yourself. Given your shameful dismissal of the phrase "death tax" as a "colorful euphemism," I shouldn't be surprised.
posted by Gelatin at 2:03 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If not... if you're strong enough to resist my calculated exhortation, surely you must be flagging my comment right now to protect others on the Internet from exposure to my illicit framing of an important issue.

Unlike you're a NYT journalist, maybe no one reads your comments for things like facts or objectivity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:08 PM on January 12, 2012


you're a NYT journalist

Them's fightin' words!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:10 PM on January 12, 2012


The 4th Estate is so lost that they have to ask the public if they should do their job.
posted by Flood at 2:14 PM on January 12, 2012


...and even if they did, now you have old "he-said, she-said" ploy again, in which the NYT actually does present one side telling the truth, but refuses to tell you which one. Here's a hint: That isn't "context." The Times itself, meanwhile, prints a deliberate lie and doesn't name it as such, allowing the senator to substitute propaganda for rational discourse.

There you go again, taking your political views and submitting them as absolute, objective truths. It's the totalitarian impulse, staring you in the face! If someone says something factually inaccurate, it's up to the journalist to provide additional facts for context. The journalist can even say, "Senator so-and-so incorrectly claimed that..." in clear-cut cases.

Meanwhile, lies shouldn't get a free pass just because "someone notable" says them. Far from it -- the fact that "someone notable", like an elected member of government, says them tends to give lies credibility, however undeserves, in the first place. The last thing lies need is the implied added imprimatur of the national media.

You're right. I've got an idea. Let's come up with a list of "notable people" to go with the "words that cannot be printed." We'll identify the liars and make sure to be especially careful about giving them media attention/coverage.

And once again, I'm not the one making up words that can't appear in newspapers. The AP Stylebook beat me to it, and again, newspapers exercise editorial judgment all the time and as a matter of course. That isn't "authoritarian," it's the nature of the press.

Can you include a link or something to those "bad words" in the AP Stylebook? My guess is that they'd include George Carlin-type words you can't say on TV and the like. I've got another idea - maybe we can use obscenity as an excuse to regulate political speech in the media. The Chinese do it -- why can't we?
posted by BobbyVan at 2:16 PM on January 12, 2012


And obviously, there's editorial judgment that goes into every story. Lots of stuff gets cut before the final copy goes out. But you want to remove that judgment and impose a categorical restriction on printing "any quote that contains such doublespeak, if necessary substituting more neutral language."
posted by BobbyVan at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2012


Senator Grinderbinder gave a speech today in which is said, "The death tax should be repealed immediately". The phrase "death tax" refers to the estate tax.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:24 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is a weird day when conservatives are defending the NYT.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is a weird day when conservatives are defending the NYT.

But no longer surprising.

News media have always had biases and points of views, almost always dictated by the owner (the old truism: "Freedom of the Press only belongs to those who own one"). What is relatively recent is the "view from nowhere" form of objective reporting that has turned out to be a glorious disaster, in that it is very enabling to the politicians and other newsmakers who lie and to their propaganda channels (sometimes known as 'the non-objective press'). With Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes providing the 500 pound gorilla in that field (there's a former Vice President with a Liberal-biased channel that can't even get onto my local cable provider), then Objective Reporting does little more than amplify one side, even when its message is total bullshit. Let's face it, the NYT and nearly every other news media entity voted to let a FoxNews "reporter" replace Helen Thomas in the front row at White House press briefings.

North Korea-style reporting? We're well on our way, and the current definition of "objectivity" is paving the road to that Hell.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:13 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson responds to the editorial.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:38 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not only are people on teh interwebs free, they generally try and tell the truth most of the time.

Which is some sort of double whammy for old media, who still seem to think that providing more meaningless data visualisations, interactives and so forth is going to bring back people who simply will not bother to access bullshit anymore.

Anyone for WMD ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:00 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


They really, really, really don't get it. When a politician spreads FUD, like in the Obama apology example, they are counting on news outlets to report it as a fact without questioning in it. In doing so these news outlets are serving as a propaganda tool.

It's like journalists have no idea how the world works compared with politicians. This stuff was routine when LBJ was calling people pigfuckers. Are they really that naive?
posted by euphorb at 4:01 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I've just come from the land of the sun with a war that must be won in the name of truth. And I want to see my family; my wife and child are waiting for me. So I'm looking for reader input on whether I should be a "Love Vigilante".
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:16 PM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I got a 'free' subscription to the online NYT that ran out this new years day. I decided to quit nyt, even the 20 free articles/month plebes are allowed.

I was a pretty avid reader. Krugman, Tuesday science stuff, Metropolitan Diary (I am old, so people 'of a certain age' are more or less my age anyway), and Dick Cavett's occasional column (see last parenthetical). Tech stuff that comes in 100 other ways.

There are many other papers printing AP stories for free. Even the AP.

I have found it remarkably easy. Local news in NY isn't really local anyway. And Krugman would be better if he quit as a columnist and just wrote letters to the editor in ALL CAPS--he's got the Nobel FU money to do it, too (does the Times allow graphs in letters to the editor? Well, they should.)
posted by hexatron at 5:12 PM on January 12, 2012


NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson responds to the editorial.

Readers must have hit a nerve because she is pretty snippy:

Of course, some facts are legitimately in dispute, and many assertions, especially in the political arena, are open to debate. We have to be careful that fact-checking is fair and impartial, and doesn’t veer into tendentiousness. Some voices crying out for “facts” really only want to hear their own version of the facts.

Except the problem that readers are pointing at is that the NYTimes regularly repeats the version of "facts" that politicians want voters to hear, without bothering the check what is behind the rhetoric. One commenter illustrates the issue with a very specific example:

Kyron Huigens
NYC

The Clarence Thomas thing is a bad example, perhaps. Here's a better one.

The Times regularly quotes politicians saying that "Social Security is going broke," or words to that effect. Never, never to my knowledge, has the Times pointed out that Social Security cannot go broke because its outlays are funded by current contributions. Never have I read a Times reporter point out that it is the Social Security Trust Fund that is underfunded. Never, to my knowledge, has a Times reporter actually, you know, reported,that the shortfall is relatively small and that the Social Security Administration projects that the Trust Fund is solvent into the 2030's. Never has a Times reporter interviewed a left of center analyst who would point out that lifting the cap on annual FICA contributions would easily cure the shortfall.

Above all, the Times regularly lets politicians say that the money in the Trust Fund was borrowed and spent as part of the regular budget. Of course it was -- by design. The Trust Fund has been saved in the most secure investment in the world: in special issue US Treasury bonds. That is, it was lent to the US Government. The idea that the US Treasury is not going to pay what it owes the Social Security Administration is ludicrous. But Times reporters continue to report the "going broke" line without any correction at all.

So check my facts, if you like, and then explain why you continue to give "Social Security is going broke," a pass.


FOX News and other conservative media do this all the time with their reporting, and none of their viewers or readers call them on it. Neither side in that relationship has much integrity, so there's little reputation to lose and little motivation to feel ashamed when repeating lies.

But legitimate media outlets often repeat talking points without questioning them, and sharper readers have lost trust over the years. It is heartening to see a backlash against the NYT, where there seems to be just a bit more integrity and pride at stake, and perhaps if they don't want to be seen as just another Murdoch or Breitbart tabloid property, they'll start to question the (often right-wing) talking points they regurgitate, which is more important now that election season is getting into full swing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:19 PM on January 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Vigilantes are civilians doing the job that police should be doing. Truth Vigilantes are, apparently, journalists, doing the job that journalists should be doing.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:32 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think that a lot of the problem this article attempts to address boil down to the tendency of political journalism in general to focus on how a given remark impacts the horse race while failing to address its relationship with the underlying mechanism of governance and/or reality. This is not exactly a new phenomenon, but it's really taken hold with the advent of the 24 hour news cycle and daily 3+ hour long timeslots to fill. Veracity is a meaningless concern, if not altogether undesirable, in the battle over aesthetics which this has become.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:42 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Homeboy Trouble: "Well, I've just come from the land of the sun with a war that must be won in the name of truth. And I want to see my family; my wife and child are waiting for me. So I'm looking for reader input on whether I should be a "Love Vigilante"."

I was just coming here to add this to the discussion.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:14 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Makes me almost miss the days when newspapers were outright owned by various political factions, and run explicitly as propaganda arms.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:42 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every "public editor" they get is more of a bland mediocrity than the last one. You'd think they'd hit some kind of natural limit, but they never do.

IZ PUBLIC EDITOR
CHEKIN UR FACTZ

posted by charlie don't surf at 11:58 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan, conservative attempts to control public debate by pushing deceitful and emotionally charged language are very well documented. There is a famous memo endorsed by Newt Gingrich which explicitly sets out how to do this. And anyone who pays attention to Fox News can see that they work very hard to get particular misleading phrases into the public debate. This sort of thing actively harms democracy because it produces a very badly informed electorate - are you really suggesting that you want the voters who select politicians to be misinformed? (Fox News viewers are consistently the worst informed.)

I would suggest that it is more like living in "fucking North Korea" to have politicians aggressively controlling the political debate by using misleading and dishonest language - e.g. "people's republic", "death tax", "pro-life" etc. Totalitarian and one-party states do not have a press corps that is free enough to question their lying language or refuse to go along with their high-sounding and empty phrases.

American reporters are fortunate enough (in some cases) to have the freedom not to follow a party line. They should use that freedom more, not less, and not be so lazy. They should refer to bills and taxes by their actual names, refuse to amplify crude rhetoric for either side and focus on reporting facts rather than empty political name-calling. Sometimes there are slightly grey areas (the Obama apology example) but there is no excuse for he said/she said reporting or failing to dig into an issue properly.

To pretend that this is somehow North Korean is bizarre. You seem to think that encouraging reporters to use the freedom they are lucky enough to possess to challenge a deliberate, explicit, decades-long attempt to control language in order to control the political process is somehow totalitarian. Perhaps this is because you think that your side would suffer if the reporters started to question empty press-releases or loaded terms. Given the Republican party's astonishing track record of lies, I think that might well be the case.

Nevertheless, this is a rather sleazy abuse of language on your part - and one that proves the point that everyone else is making. Fortunately, the other Mefites here seem to be more than clever enough to spot it.
posted by lucien_reeve at 4:45 AM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


lucien, your comment is so full of straw men it's a fire hazard.

I agree with you that journalists should not be mindless transcribers of political talking points. Nor should they adopt a strict policy of "one the one hand this, one the other hand that" when there are solid facts supporting a particular position. Journalists should refer to things by "their real names," and resist being dragged into political newspeak, whether we're talking about "death taxes" or "undocumented workers." Still with me?

However, you obviously do not fully appreciate the implications of read Gelatin's proposal:
Two examples I'd cite are terms like "partial birth abortion" and "death tax" -- loaded and factually inaccurate terms that contain a calculated emotional punch and, through constant repetition, have unfortunately become accepted elements of our public discourse.

There's no reason at all a newspaper reporter, at least, has to agree to be used as a vehicle for conveying and amplifying terms like these. He or she could refuse to run any quote that contains such doublespeak, if necessary substituting more neutral language.
This policy would apply to quotes for Christ sake. When I read a quote in a newspaper, I have an expectation that what I'm reading is an accurate reflection of what was actually said at an actual event. And I for one would like to make up my own mind about how reasonable and persuasive the advocates for various positions are. Most MeFites probably have an instinctively negative reaction whenever they see a Republican Congressman say "Obamacare." How would you like it if you never saw that word again in the newspaper. It would be nice for a while... but then you'd probably start to think that Republicans were becoming less asshole-ish, when in fact they were still saying the same old shit. Do you really want to be so deceived?

Gelatin's proposal is that journalism take on a paternalistic and dishonest character. Paternalistic because it presumes that certain phrases are too dangerous to be repeated, even in quotation, even with contextual analysis and rebuttal with facts. Ironically, it would lead to a further erosion of trust in the media. I know the New York Times is annoyingly liberal and biased, but I also have confidence (mostly) that the quotes and factual aspects of its reporting are accurate.

Furiousxgeorge shows how it ought to be done.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:22 AM on January 13, 2012


He or she could refuse to run any quote that contains such doublespeak, if necessary substituting more neutral language.

Most articles are a mixture of summary and quotes -- a paper could have the policy of always summarizing statements that contain talking points, so that the paper doesn't inadvertently become a conduit for the talking point messaging.

Example - "Obama supports partial birth abortions," Romney said

vs

Romney added to his list of grievances against Obama that Obama supports intact dilation and extraction surgeries.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:59 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The New York Times public editor's very public utterance
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2012


The Truth Vigilantes
Their mission: hunt down facts and destroy them.

posted by BobbyVan at 2:13 PM on January 13, 2012


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. are looking for reader input on whether and when Vanity Fair should spell “words” correctly in the stories we publish.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:25 AM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The inevitable fake Twitter has some pretty good ones:

In retrospect, greater scrutiny should have been placed on Ron Paul's claim that the FDA is staffed exclusively by tarantulas.

Thinking of this weekend's NFL playoffs, I wonder if it's really a referee's job to dictate "penalties" and "complete passes"

Times official says other Times official was not speaking for the Times when they said I was not speaking for the Times

Tune in tomorrow for plenty of South Carolina primary coverage. Perry says his campaign is still alive, and that's good enough for us.

It's like the old joke that a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. This guy accidentally told the truth about journalism and is backpedaling furiously because telling the truth is no longer acceptable at the NYTimes.
posted by euphorb at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am reminded of these praiseworthy Voice of San Diego: New Reporter Guidelines that was the topic of a previous post. I get the impression that the NYT's Public Editor would be startled by this stuff.

But then again, the Voice of San Diego is not the Paper of Record, so why should he pay any attention to them anyhow?
posted by adamrice at 4:01 PM on January 14, 2012


Arthur Brisbane and selective stenography
posted by homunculus at 8:03 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most articles are a mixture of summary and quotes -- a paper could have the policy of always summarizing statements that contain talking points, so that the paper doesn't inadvertently become a conduit for the talking point messaging.

Again, I'd love to see the appendix for your new journalism stylebook, listing the words and phrases that should never appear in the family newspaper.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:17 AM on January 15, 2012


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