Why Journalism Is Dead

Today, the New York Times' ombudsman public editor wrote a piece titled Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante? In it, he asked if reporters should “challenge 'facts'” asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

I was a little flummoxed that he felt compelled to ask readers if they expected reporters to try to get at the truth. It seemed pretty obvious to me that reporters are supposed to report what they see and hear, what people say, and perhaps give background to an event. As for “challenging” newsmakers, it used to be routine for reporters to “challenge” the president by yelling questions at him as he left for his helicopter. Or to “challenge” the press secretary when he tried to give his spin on an event.

But apparently, that's not the kind of “challenging” the ombudsman public editor had in mind.

One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-tru

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In other words, “challenging” newsmakers really is just another term for “attacking Republicans.” Note that the ombudsman doesn't mention challenging any of President Obama's lies–er, “facts.” Instead, he discusses it in terms of (a) “challenging” facts one can't disprove (how does the reader know Justice Thomas didn't misunderstand the financial disclosure form?) or (b) nitpicking about political assertions (it's perfectly accurate to assert President Obama went on an “apology tour” without having to prove he used the word “apology”).

Moreover, one person's “fact” is another person's “opinion.” How many times at the old Common Sense Political Thought did a liberal assert that President Bush “knew” there were no WMDs in Iraq? Or that GWB wanted 9/11 to happen? Or that Republicans want poor people to die? Such comments are beyond the pale, but they are all opinions and, like noses, everybody has one.

Reporters are supposed to check facts anyway. What liberals like the NYT ombudsman public editor want is the ability to toss objectivity in any form out the window. So when a pro-life person talks about life beginning at conception, the reporter can “challenge” that person to “prove' it.

Because as every leftwinger knows, facts are liberal things, right?

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