Friday, January 13, 2012

Just the facts. man

I'm late to the game, so by now you know that NYT's Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane asked a question yesterday that generated a virtual shitstorm of criticism and mockery. I'm not going to add to that. Think I'll just answer the question.

The answer is yes, it's the newpaper's job to challenge lies. One thing I haven't seen mentioned, by definition a fact is a proveable statement. Based on demonstrable reality. Sure, in feeding the insatiable maw of the 24/7 news cycle deadline pressure makes it difficult to immediately fact check every utterance made and editors have become a timid lot in standing up to their critics, but for the love of Perry White, if a prominent person is repeatedly making the same untrue statement, it's not out of bounds to ask for proof.

I mean, using Brisbane's own example of Romney's accusation that Obama has widely apologized for America. Print that he says it. It's news. But at least ask him to provide some concrete examples of said apologies. And if he can't, print that too. In the same article. Around here, we call that context. It's an important part of the story.

Fact checking has become as skewed and partisan as those they purport to check. Truth would be better served if journalists didn't accept every statement on face value and ask for proof of the claims at the time they're made.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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