The New York Times is wondering if they should provide the truth.

The Times’ public editor is asking, in the form of a blog entry, whether the media should be in the habit of pointing out when a subject is lying. That is, a politician says that black is white, should the reporter covering it point out that, in fact, black is black? It’s shameful that this question even needs to be asked. Websites like Richmond Sunlight are in the business of reporting straight-up facts. That has value, no doubt. But the job of media outlets is to take that information, review it, interpret it, package it up, and provide that to readers, to help them to understand the world around them. And the Times is wondering if it’s necessary to point out when their facts are wrong? Yes, yes it is necessary. Get on it, Times. 

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

17 replies on “The New York Times is wondering if they should provide the truth.”

  1. Are you sure that was the Times,not The Onion? Oh yeah, “All the news that fits, we print” (I think that was from Mad Magazine). The truth doesn’t fit, I guess. Besides, it would make it necessary for the reporters to do some thinking. Maybe they don’t consider that to be part of their job description. The NYT is hardly the only media outlet that has this problem.

  2. Despite this thinky veiled “op-ed” on proper journalism, President Obama HAS, in fact, apologized for America, despite not using the words, “I apologize.” Anyone denying this plain and obvious fact is operating with an agenda.

    This piece is a weak attempt at defending future NYT pro-Obama, anti-Romney spin.

  3. I. Publius, which specific speeches are you referring to when you say that “President Obama HAS, in fact, apologized for America”? Which portions of those speeches? Could you provide quotes?

  4. If Obama didn’t say “I apologize for America..” or “I’m sorry that America…” or “I offer my apologies on behalf of America” or a variant thereof that uses the words “apology” or “sorry” or “regret,” then he has not “apologized” for America. Anyone denying this plain and obvious fact is operating with an agenda.

  5. News reports should be just that, news. If the topic of the article is covering an in accuracy, sure, report on that. If you want to fact check during an article, sure do that. But don’t add an opinion on if a statement is a lie. Give me good, fair, objective, and in-depth reporting and I’ll be able to make the call if I feel a statement is a lie.

  6. Seems to me that whether or not something is a lie is provable based on the facts, so to call out a statement that’s a lie isn’t just opinion. Determining whether something is a lie or not should be based in objectve truth, not feeling. A newspaper’s job should be to point out the objective truth behind the statements of our leaders (and those that aspire to those roles) so that we can be as informed as possible.

  7. This is an important question. Politicians frequently play fast and loose with the truth. There is a feeling in newsrooms, however, that we can’t call them out on that, that it’s the job of their opponents. Due to the demands of “objectivity,” which some take to mean that all statements are created equal, we’d try to find someone on the other side to say the statement isn’t true. In my view, this isn’t the best way to handle it. When Joe McCarthy was waving that sheet of paper with the “names of the communists in the State Department” around, some reporter should have reported, “actually the page was blank.” I think objectivity means we have a duty to the truth, not always to give both sides equal time. Because sometimed one side is obviously right and the other wrong. But mine is a minority viewpoint in newsrooms. I also don’t think we should print letters to the editor with demonstrable errors in fact, but every newspaper in America does.

  8. Really I. Publius? A WSJ opinion piece, penned by Mr. Rove, as evidence that Obama apologized for America?

  9. That Karl Rove! While he is widely acclaimed for his ability to make a turd into a sweet blossom, I see he also gets paid to reverse the process. Do you have a better witness than the Chief Apologist for George Bush?

  10. I went ahead and did the actual work of tracking down these statements, so we could see them in context instead of looking at isolated phrases.


    I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there’s something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.

    But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America.

    So I’ve come to Europe this week to renew our partnership, one in which America listens and learns from our friends and allies, but where our friends and allies bear their share of the burden. Together, we must forge common solutions to our common problems.So let me say this as clearly as I can: America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes. We are confronting the greatest economic crisis since World War II. The only way to confront this unprecedented crisis is through unprecedented coordination.


    Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked -– that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.

    Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. (Applause.) And as nuclear power –- as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

    So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. (Applause.) I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.)


    At a time when threats and challenges require nations to work in concert with one another, we remain the greatest catalysts for global action. In an era defined by the rapid flow of commerce and information, it is our free market tradition, our openness, fortified by our commitment to basic security for our citizens, that offers the best chance of prosperity that is both strong and shared. As millions are still denied their basic human rights because of who they are, or what they believe, or the kind of government that they live under, we are the nations most willing to stand up for the values of tolerance and self-determination that lead to peace and dignity.

    Now, this doesn’t mean we can afford to stand still. The nature of our leadership will need to change with the times. As I said the first time I came to London as President, for the G20 summit, the days are gone when Roosevelt and Churchill could sit in a room and solve the world’s problems over a glass of brandy — although I’m sure that Prime Minister Cameron would agree that some days we could both use a stiff drink. (Laughter.) In this century, our joint leadership will require building new partnerships, adapting to new circumstances, and remaking ourselves to meet the demands of a new era.


    As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere faces a clear choice: We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future. Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My administration is committed to renewing and sustaining a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.

    We have already begun to move in a new direction. This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. In particular, the refusal to allow Cuban Americans to visit or provide resources to their families on the island made no sense — particularly after years of economic hardship in Cuba, and the devastating hurricanes that took place last year. Now, that policy has changed.


    MR. GIBBS: Well, you know, I — we’ve had a at least two-year policy disagreement with the Vice President of the United States of America. That policy disagreement is whether or not you can uphold the values in which this country was founded at the same time that you protect the citizens that live in that country. The President of the United States and this administration believes that you can. The Vice President has come to, in our opinion, a different conclusion.

    But, again, this was a — this has been a policy disagreement for at least the better part of two years, maybe longer than that, I’d have to go back and look. But, you know, the President — the Vice President was also happy to talk about the way we’re conducting our foreign policy, which has also been a several-year disagreement with the Vice President. The President of the United States, President Obama has on his first two foreign trips changed the image of America around the world through leadership and engagement that advances our national interests, makes us safer and more secure, and stronger.

    I think that’s the main disagreement that we have with the Vice President.

    Now, needless to say, I don’t think any of these amount to apologizing for America; I think they are more in the nature of effective diplomacy. I am curious which specific parts you object to, with an explanation of why, in your opinion, they are objectionable.

    (I have also not yet looked to see which of these statements are similar to statements made by Republican presidents, but I bet many or all of them are.)

  11. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.”


    Yes They Can!

  12. Nicely done, Roger.

    Pubilus is, as always, bereft of integrity. Good thing he doesn’t attach his name to all those ridiculous things he says, I suppose.

  13. I agree with the first four statements of Obama as quoted by Roger. (I’m totally confused about the fifth by Gibbs and how it bears relevance.) As you guys know, I’m very conservative. But I’ve lived abroad a lot, 8 months in Thailand, 5 months in Israel & Palestine (working with Palestinians), and am currently in India for 2 months. I’m delighted by Obama’s tone and substance in most of his foreign policy. (I’m cautious about Egypt’s 75% Islamist vote, but I still think Obama did the right thing, even if it produces undesirable results. Doing the expedient thing instead of the right thing is not a viable long-term strategy.) His policies fit very well with the “realities on the ground” that I’ve observed around the world. People want so badly to love the U.S.*, but the U.S.’s elitism and arrogance gets very old, very quickly. (The crazy thing about conservatives’ is that they tend to be the down home folks against liberal elitism, which makes no sense when they talk about proud American exceptionalism.) We need to keep the exceptionalism, but drop our arrogance.

    Where I’m dead-set against Obama is all in re: to domestic policy. In fact, when I explain Obama’s domestic policies to my overseas friends (in Thailand, India, or Palestine), they’re dead-set against his domestic policies as well.

    * As a further point, the place where I’ve felt the most pro-American fervor of anywhere in the world was in Iraq. As I walked down the street in Kurdistan, Iraq, people would yell out to me in English, “America the best!” “USA number one!” “I very like Bush, I very hate Osama bin Laden!” A random Kurdish guy told me on my flight from Dubai to Erbil, “The Turks hate us, the Arabs hate us, the Iranians hate us; if it weren’t for the Americans, we wouldn’t have any friends in the world.” I think this illustrates the value in providing an auxiliary support to the locals rather than a takeover. The no-fly zone for Northern Iraq was the perfect medicine for Kurdistan since it protected the Kurds from genocide (I saw the destroyed villages) with very little effort from the U.S., but allowed the Kurds to self-govern without providing a U.S. face to blame the problems on–inevitably those in charge will get the blame when things go wrong, fairly or unfairly in that situation. Afghanistan, IMHO, would have gone much better if the U.S. would have stopped at supporting the Northern Alliance from the air and with Special Forces on the ground. The scenario that followed was that the Taliban was able to add the U.S. to the long list of repelled foreign empires along with the Soviets.

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