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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  1. From Patterico:

    Daley Stepping Down in “Rare” White House Shake-Up

    Filed under: General — Karl @ 7:40 am

    The New Hampshire primary preempted my mockery of this New York Times article, which had the audacity to run the above headline — without the quote marks — in marking the departure of White House chief of staff William M. Daley:

    It was a distracting shake-up in a White House that has prided itself on a lack of internal drama, with a tightly knit circle of loyal senior advisers playing a steadying role.

    In the real world, no president has gone through as many chiefs of staff in their first term as Obama has to date. And that’s just for starters, well beyond the shuffling of people like David Axelrod to Obama’s reelect campaign.

    Consider Obama’s original economic team. Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, Larry Summers and Jared Bernstein are all gone, as is Austan Goolsbee, leaving tax-cheating Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner as the anchor of Obamanomics.

    Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is gone, as is Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton and White House communications director Anita Dunn.

    Melody Barnes was the White House’s chief domestic policy adviser. Not anymore.

    Gen. Jim Jones is no longer Obama’s National Security adviser, after a tenure marked by sniping that sent Deputy National Security Adviser and Chief of Staff to the NSC Mark Lippert back to military service. That happened before Obama’s major Pentagon shakeup last April in which the vacancy caused by the departure of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was filled by Leon Panetta, whose seat at the CIA was filled in turn by Gen. David Petraeus.

    Moreover, two books suggest there were plenty of factions and infighting during the president’s term. One of them was written by Jodi Kantor — a reporter for the New York Times.

    The NYT’s propaganda here is risible, but interesting nonetheless. Reporting on a White House in disarray would underscore what happens when we elect someone with no executive experience. It would also raise the issue of whether any of these people were simply scapegoats for the failures of progressive policy.

    Not that the Times would be biased, or anything. :)

  2. Journalism is dead because the self-anointed watchdogs of democracy would rather feed from the hand of the tyrant than faithfully report both sides of political issues.

    The dogmatic leftist political culture which dominates J schools and which is pervasive among national news organizations suffers from a trained incapacity to acknowledge legitimate opposing opinion even in the face of clearly obvious contradictory facts

  3. PS: Perry’s comments here and at CSPT are excellent examples of how the ossified leftist mind is fixated on and consumed by a virulent myopia.

  4. Ropelight, if you are going to insist on making opinion statements like the above, at least you would be more understandable with some examples to back up your comments, otherwise you are blowing hot air into the wind!

    Regarding Patterico’s comments re WH disarray, I would be disappointed if there were not any. I have the feeling that that is what was wrong with the Cheney/Bush WH, thus enabling them to issue war policies, spending policies, and policies on deregulation which produced the terrible wars and the Great Recession which we all have had to endure to this day.

  5. Sharon, I think your critique, for what it is worth, applies to the press in general, and not specifically to the NYT.

    The main problem I see is there is no longer a clear distinction between the news reporting and the editorial functions, whether it be the print or TV outlets. This is neither only a Liberal or only a Conservative phenomenon; both have this problem.

    This is why I enjoy a program like the News Hour, because they make a concerted effort to present the news, distinguished from opinion. And the opinion part usually has different sides represented.

  6. This fact checking business could be useful, if that is what it really was, and not merely a cover, as Sharon states it is, for another agenda.

    For a positive example of the press doing a kind of fact checking – which can be fact checked itself – CNN Money did a fact check on the Gingrich attack video ad directed at Romney’s supposed misdeeds while “at” Bain Capital. http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/12/the-bain-bomb-fizzles/

    What we are now, I think, seeing though, is a trollistic cultural outgrowth of a once and sometimes reasonable flyspecking practice named “Fisking”, after what readers were forced to go through when confronting the media product the notorious left-wing liar and pseudo-journalist Robert Fisk. Fisk of course, is a man whose “every sentence” (rhetoric) is so crammed with misleading and polemically motivated slants that it begged for line by line exposure and refutation.

    However, as Mark Steyn remarked yesterday, (on a show I never listen to but happened to stay tuned to because I recognized his voice) mere political rhetoric is now the subject of a pretended truth critique, which is no more than an attempt to discredit anything an opponent might say.

    Those of us who have any experience with Internet political message boards or opinion web sites, well recognize the technique by which a fact challenged and defeated troll, will with seeming pointlessness, hangs on and on … until such time as (it later becomes obvious) they believe they have finally detected a bit of casual rhetoric or conversation, which they will then pounce on and attempt to leverage into an accusation of falsehood or inaccuracy.

    A certain mentally and physically degenerated New Zealander Internet troll comes to mind as a prime example of the latter practice.

  7. Geez … can’t handle a phone conversation and type coherently at the same time.

    ” …when confronting the media product [of] the notorious left-wing liar and pseudo-journalist Robert Fisk.”

    “Those of us who have any experience with Internet political message boards or opinion web sites, well recognize the technique by which fact challenged and defeated trolls, will with seeming pointlessness, hang on and on … until such time as (it later becomes obvious) they believe they have finally detected a bit of casual rhetoric or conversation, which they will then pounce on and attempt to leverage into an accusation of falsehood or inaccuracy.”

    Maybe I should go back to earning money rather than playing on a message board …

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