New York Times In Panic Over ‘Facts’

Clay Shirky, smartest guy in the room when it comes to Internet and society, reviews the mess that the New York Times finds itself in after an editor publicly questioned whether or not the Times should challenge “newsmakers” on dubious facts, for the Guardian:

Thursday, Arthur Brisbane, the public editor of the New York Times, went to his readers with a question:

“I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

Brisbane (who, as public editor, speaks only for himself, not the Times) referred to two recent stories: the claim that Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial reporting form when he left out key information, and Mitt Romney’s assertion that President Obama gives speeches “apologising” for America. Brisbane asked whether news reporters should have the freedom to investigate and respond to those comments.

New York Times building in NYC. Photo: Haxorjoe (CC)

New York Times building in NYC. Photo: Haxorjoe (CC)

The reaction from readers was swift, voluminous, negative and incredulous.

“Is this a joke? THIS IS YOUR JOB.”

“If the purpose of the NYT is to be an inoffensive container for ad copy, then by all means continue to do nothing more than paraphrase those press releases.”

“I hope you can help me, Mr Brisbane, because I’m an editor, currently unemployed: is fecklessness now a job requirement?”

Brisbane had clearly not been expecting this excoriating and one-sided a reaction. Brisbane has since tried to clarify his views twice. The first was on the media blog JimRomenesko.com:

“What I was trying to ask was whether reporters should always rebut dubious facts in the body of the stories they are writing. I was hoping for diverse and even nuanced responses to what I think is a difficult question.”

The second was on the NY Times site:

“My inquiry related to whether the Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut ‘facts’ that are offered by newsmakers when those ‘facts’ are in question. I consider this a difficult question, not an obvious one.”

This only added fuel to the fire…

[continues at the Guardian]

majestic

Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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40 Comments on "New York Times In Panic Over ‘Facts’"

  1. DeepCough | Jan 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm |

    First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the FREEDOM of
    speech, or of THE PRESS; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Obviously, the New York Times ain’t as liberal as was reported.

  2. DeepCough | Jan 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

    First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the FREEDOM of
    speech, or of THE PRESS; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Obviously, the New York Times ain’t as liberal as was reported.

  3. I’m amazed they are asking us instead of the corporate overlords

  4. I’m amazed they are asking us instead of the corporate overlords

  5. Jin (仁) | Jan 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

    comment is free is one my favourite reading/time wasting spaces on the interweb.

    can be totally soul destroying or empowering, but one thing i have to admit, many/most of the commenters are far better writers than most print journos.

  6. Jin The Ninja | Jan 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm |

    comment is free is one my favourite reading/time wasting spaces on the interweb.

    can be totally soul destroying or empowering, but one thing i have to admit, many/most of the commenters are far better writers than most print journos.

  7. How about an in depth article highlighting the long slow slide into the current state of affairs where this has become a question for debate instead of a given?

    Bright side…the world gave him a fairly uniform answer and it amounts to : “YOU WOULDN’T BE ASKING THIS IF YOU ACTUALLY MEANT DO YOUR JOB!!”

  8. How about an in depth article highlighting the long slow slide into the current state of affairs where this has become a question for debate instead of a given?

    Bright side…the world gave him a fairly uniform answer and it amounts to : “YOU WOULDN’T BE ASKING THIS IF YOU ACTUALLY MEANT TO DO YOUR JOB!!”

  9. Anarchy Pony | Jan 14, 2012 at 12:33 am |

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  10. Anarchy Pony | Jan 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • Nirvanasteve | Jan 14, 2012 at 12:39 am |

      I stick with a depressed misanthropy. It’s a reaction fitting to most of the articles I come across on this site.

      • Anarchy Pony | Jan 14, 2012 at 12:44 am |

        That describes my reaction to most legitimate news and current events these days.

  11. The New Speak Times
    All the NewSpeak that’s fit to print.

    from the NewSpeak Dictionary
    facts = propaganda
    truth = lies
    unbiased = biased

    it’s hard to keep it all straight

    does anyone still read the NewSpeak Times
    except the truly deluded? 

  12. BuzzCoastin | Jan 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |

    The New Speak Times
    All the NewSpeak that’s fit to print.

    from the NewSpeak Dictionary
    facts = propaganda
    truth = lies
    unbiased = biased

    it’s hard to keep it all straight

    does anyone still read the NewSpeak Times
    except the truly deluded? 

    • Nirvanasteve | Jan 14, 2012 at 12:37 am |

      If NewSpeak were anywhere, I imagine that it would be more in the language of texting and emoticons.  Something as beautiful as: “I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree,” becomes “<3 Trees :D". Now THAT's some unthinking, unemotional 1984 shit. I would more equate New York Times and popular journalism in general as the Ministry of Truth. 

      • BuzzCoastin | Jan 14, 2012 at 1:29 am |

        have it anyway you like
        but the Ministry of Truth was the author of NewSpeak

        the language of txt is more like hieroglyphics or cave art
        glyphs and images that evoke meaning and reflection
        which are not meant to deceive but to enlighten or even inspire
        while NewSpeak is intended purely for deception and subjugation

        • …and uggity-buggity-boo to you too

          tophat eats purple mouse
          the language of cigarettes is smokish
          gives one a taste of pure guy shimmering
          whilst lungs chirrup about brown glass
          the chief organ totters momentarily
          until finger reacts to orange and red
          brother butt falls through the abyss
          whilst the cathedral door moans
          “fuck, I burnt my finger”

  13. I like how he asked if news reporters should be arsed to do more than copy-paste press releases, and when the world shouted “YES OBVIOUSLY YOU FUCKING RETARD HOW IS THIS A QUESTION THIS IS WHY WE HATE YOU” in unison, he said “no no you obviously misunderstood” and then asked the exact same question again. He’s basically saying “I’m going to keep asking this question until somebody says it’s perfectly reasonable to go back to torrenting BangBros at my desk instead of newsing.”

  14. I like how he asked if news reporters should be arsed to do more than copy-paste press releases, and when the world shouted “YES OBVIOUSLY YOU FUCKING RETARD HOW IS THIS A QUESTION THIS IS WHY WE HATE YOU” in unison, he said “no no you obviously misunderstood” and then asked the exact same question again. He’s basically saying “I’m going to keep asking this question until somebody says it’s perfectly reasonable to go back to torrenting BangBros at my desk instead of newsing.”

  15. Tchoutoye | Jan 14, 2012 at 2:13 am |

    Brisbane’s “nuance” is just a smoke screen.

  16. Tchoutoye | Jan 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

    Brisbane’s “nuance” is just a smoke screen.

  17. Tibus Heth | Jan 14, 2012 at 2:28 am |

    The NY Times is little more than a slightly more reputable National Enquirer these days. At least the Enquirer is good for a laugh, though.

  18. The NY Times is little more than a slightly more reputable National Enquirer these days. At least the Enquirer is good for a laugh, though.

  19. Seamus Dubh | Jan 14, 2012 at 4:24 am |

    Wow, who’d thunk that the news is supposed to report the truth.
    Go figure.

  20. Seamus Dubh | Jan 14, 2012 at 12:24 am |

    Wow, who’d thunk that the news is supposed to report the truth.
    Go figure.

  21. Nirvanasteve | Jan 14, 2012 at 4:37 am |

    If NewSpeak were anywhere, I imagine that it would be more in the language of texting and emoticons.  Something as beautiful as: “I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree,” becomes “<3 Trees :D". Now THAT's some unthinking, unemotional 1984 shit. I would more equate New York Times and popular journalism in general as the Ministry of Truth. 

  22. Nirvanasteve | Jan 14, 2012 at 4:39 am |

    I stick with a depressed misanthropy. It’s a reaction fitting to most of the articles I come across on this site.

  23. Anarchy Pony | Jan 14, 2012 at 4:44 am |

    That describes my reaction to most legitimate news and current events these days.

  24. have it anyway you like
    but the Ministry of Truth was the author of NewSpeak

    the language of txt is more like hieroglyphics or cave art
    glyphs and images that evoke meaning and reflection
    which are not meant to deceive but to enlighten or even inspire
    while NewSpeak is intended purely for deception and subjugation

  25. Anonymous | Jan 14, 2012 at 11:52 am |

    …and uggity-buggity-boo to you too

    tophat eats purple mouse
    the language of cigarettes is smokish
    gives one a taste of pure guy shimmering
    whilst lungs chirrup about brown glass
    the chief organ totters momentarily
    until finger reacts to orange and red
    brother butt falls through the abyss
    whilst the cathedral door moans
    “fuck, I burnt my finger”

  26. Anonymous | Jan 14, 2012 at 11:56 am |

    How did it occur to him that saying that was a good idea?

  27. How did it occur to him that saying that was a good idea?

  28. hawaiiguy kailua | Jan 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |

    That the question was put forth in the first place says it all, what happened to the  “Edward R Murrow’s” and “Kyle Broflovski’s” fighting and demanding the truth? Why hasn’t any Times reporter prosed the question of what happened to the “Royal Raymond Rife’s” in society?  

  29. hawaiiguy | Jan 14, 2012 at 9:57 am |

    That the question was put forth in the first place says it all, what happened to the  “Edward R Murrow’s” and “Kyle Broflovski’s” fighting and demanding the truth? Why hasn’t any Times reporter prosed the question of what happened to the “Royal Raymond Rife’s” in society?  

    • DeepCough | Jan 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

      Good news: Bill Moyers decided he hated retirement and is coming back to journalism.

  30. Anonymous | Jan 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |

    I swear after I read that article I tried to summon Spider Jerusalem into our reality through sheer will and  outrage. That guy needs a few “love” taps from the Chairleg of Truth. 

  31. MadHierophant | Jan 14, 2012 at 10:11 am |

    I swear after I read that article I tried to summon Spider Jerusalem into our reality through sheer will and  outrage. That guy needs a few “love” taps from the Chairleg of Truth. 

  32. DeepCough | Jan 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm |

    Good news: Bill Moyers decided he hated retirement and is coming back to journalism.

  33. Just goes to show how badly the Times has lost it’s way.  It was once, perhaps, THE premier paper in America.  It was the closest thing we had to a national newspaper.  Now, it doesn’t even know what journalism is. 

  34. Just goes to show how badly the Times has lost it’s way.  It was once, perhaps, THE premier paper in America.  It was the closest thing we had to a national newspaper.  Now, it doesn’t even know what journalism is. 

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