Public editor of the New York Times, Arthur Brisbane, asks their readership if:
…New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
and is then surprised and claims he was misunderstood when its readers essentially answer with a chorus of “yes, you moron” replies, and comments hopeful that this would result in a paper that actually reported the facts as facts and opinion as opinion. He went as far as to call this process being a “truth vigilante”.
Journalists must aggressively seek to ascertain and report the truth. It needs to be not just a profession, but more than that, a calling, to tell the truth about the powerful and what they’re saying. When someone makes a claim, it’s okay to fact-check it, and okay to tell us whether you found anything, or even if you couldn’t find anything. We like to know these things. You don’t need to hand us your conclusions, (that’s for the editorial pages) but please, for the sake of journalism, hand us all your evidence, and put your fact-checking next to the statements that are being fact-checked, so casual readers don’t miss them.
A “truth vigilante” would be someone who runs around punching anyone who lies to them. A person who aggressively challenges the claims of the rich and powerful is a “journalist”, especially if they admit it when they are corrected after going either too far, or not far enough. Here’s hoping the New York Times will listen to the thousands of people around the world that are speaking truth to power, and start catering to the vast market for actual journalism that we’re all so thirsty for, because they really did understand what they read the first time, and they know what they want.