Why The New York Times Is Hopeless

Because it publishes this sort of articles:

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign debates, The Times has employed a separate fact-check sidebar to assess the validity of the candidates’ statements. Do you like this feature, or would you rather it be incorporated into regular reporting?

If you need to ask, then you are so not in the right profession. Just imagine a doctor sending out a memo to her patients asking, “Would you prefer that treating illness be incorporated into my regular practice?” Or a teacher doing a survey among students, “Do you want me to make sure that I impart the correct information to you in class? Should I be a truth vigilante and double-check the date of Don Quijote‘s publication before discussing it with you? Are you sure? Are you completely sure?”

And here is the best part of the article:

Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?

Yes, this is the quality of writing The NYTimes regales us with. If it’s a fact, why do you need to correct it at all? What you correct are mistakes, not facts. Or is there some new definition of the word “fact” that I’m not aware of?

And this is the content they want to charge us to read online.

12 thoughts on “Why The New York Times Is Hopeless

  1. The NY Times may suffer from shoddy writing, ignorance of the actual issues they report about, poor factchecking, and obsessive fealty to the establishment but they do make up for it with the brilliant columns of Tom Friedman and David Brooks.


  2. Tom Friedman? Come on, that guy is such a fool! I can’t believe they let him write a column for the NYTimes! He is full of cliches and sound-bites.


  3. The question posed by Mr. Brisbane at the NYT was not so much whether but how “facts” should be reported and checked. If I say, “my thermometer reveals that it’s ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit three feet from my front door,” that is an objective statement of fact — even if my thermometer may be off by a few degrees. If I say, “it’s terribly hot,” that’s a subjective statement of opinion. If I say, “I think it’s terribly hot,” that’s an objective statement of the fact that that is my opinion.

    Here is a blog article at Outside the Beltway that wrestles (at greater length than necessary, but that’s just my opinion) with the fact – opinion mix in addressing the “firestorm” created by Mr. Brisbane’s request for reader views on fact checking.


  4. I am so frequently disappointed with the NY times. The way they have represented the conflict in Northern Ireland has been atrocious. My students often ask me (even though I tell them newspapers are not appropriate sources for our particular assignment) “is the NY Times a scholarly source?” Because in their minds its the Great NY Times… not so great anymore folks.

    I think the Times is asking because they are struggling with some sort of half-writing/half-visual attempt to keep up with online rapid-media and people who only want soundbites and others who want the more complex analysis.You know, fact checking within the article’s actual analysis as sentences or fact checking from the NY Times itself like a 3rd party to the article.


  5. I think that Glenn Greenwald at Salon has the best comment on the Brisbane column.


    Speaking of stenographic journalism, consider this amazing fact. After the NYT published its infamous Editor’s Note in 2004 apologizing for (some of) its stenographic coverage of pre-Iraq-war claims (information from anonymous sources “was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged,” the paper confessed), its top editors repeatedly vowed greater levels of skepticism in the future, especially when it came to government claims about America’s enemies. Said Bill Keller in 2007: “We don’t have to tell the reporters to be as skeptical as possible. W.M.D. restored a level of skepticism.”

    But look at what has happened with the paper’s subsequent coverage of Iraq and Iran. Amazingly, three consecutive Public Editors have each separately condemned the newspaper for baseless reporting that either relied blindly on government claims or over-stated external threats. In February, 2007, Byron Calame gently though clearly criticized an article by Michael Gordon about Iranian actions in Iraq that relied too much on government claims without qualification. Thereafter, Clark Hoyt slammed the paper for mindlessly adopting Bush claims about Al Qaeda in Iraq. And earlier this week, Brisbane admonished the paper for over-stating the IAEA’s assessment of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    Notice that each of these episodes entail the NYT‘s hyping government claims and exaggerating the threats which the U.S. government is attempting to highlight. At least to my knowledge, none of the paper’s Public Editors has ever criticized the NYT for excessive skepticism of government claims or under-stating such threats. And that’s the point: it isn’t merely that all of this is just bad or sloppy journalistic behavior. It’s more directed, more purposeful than that: it all goes in one direction (bolstering official claims), all benefits one faction (those who wield power), and all has one outcome (amplifying elite assertions while shielding them from criticial scrutiny).


  6. The Wall Street Journal is by far the best newspaper in the United States. It employs the best writers and covers the most important topics of the day. It is also the most international in outlook. It leaves the NYT in the dust.


  7. Just out of curiosity, what DO you think about a fact-check sidebar, whether it’s at the NYT or any other newspaper? I kind of like it. While I wish I had the time to conduct research myself on every single claim every politician makes, I do not.


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