facts are stupid things

New York Times Wondering Whether It Should Tell the Truth About Anything

At least he doesn't have a Twitter account ...Lie-plagued yuppie lifestyle app The New York Times has a big problem. On the one hand, it wants to have lots of link-bait articles full of lies — anything a politician says, “yoga will kill you,” etc. On the other hand, it has a few nervous-nelly editors wondering whether there is some “market share potential” in occasionally publishing the truth about events, people and situations. This is the newspaper that has blindly supported every imperial war since 9/11, and has blindly nodded its consent to global supervillains such as Dick Cheney and Alan Greenspan. And now it’s suddenly having a conversation with itself about whether it should note which things are obviously true or untrue. Whatever, Noam Chomsky!

This, from the milquetoast schoolmarm currently employed as the “public editor” of the NYT:

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

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-truth” stage.

Wow, where to begin? Maybe just don’t, and instead link to Choire Sicha’s post at The Awl, where he notes that 99% of the commenters at the NYT are bizarrely in favor of the Paper of Record reporting actual facts. [The Awl/NYT/Metafilter]

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About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne

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178 comments

    1. Generation[redacted]

      "Just go to sleep, America, and let the other countries learn."
      "Sleep! That's where I'm a Viking!"

    2. Boojum_Reborn

      And grammar. I'm looking for input on whether reporters know how to structure a sentence so that it doesn't end with a preposition. Or if impactful proactivititiousness is what winning the future is about.

    1. SorosBot

      For a second I read that as "grey lady area", and was uncomfortably reminded that there is such a thing as granny porn.

  1. memzilla

    Drudge Report laughs and spins everything to the right, NYT worries and spins everything left. Lighten up, Times! No one cares about Teh Troof, just the spin.

    I personally want a fusion of Politifact.com, Factcheck.org, and C-SPAN. I'd love to see a chyron with "Pants On Fire Lie" — live! — every time John "Weepy" Boehner, Mitch "Turtle" McConnell, Eric "Asshat" Cantor, and Paul "Screw The Poorz" Ryan open their pieholes.

  2. Wonderthing

    Readers, what IS a reporter? Is it someone who reports? Or writes a book report? Or is it the sound a gun makes over and over? Please tell us so we can take our fingers out of our ass, try to make sense of it all and then have Jell-O. Shots. Ew.

  3. MissTaken

    'I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.'

    Maybe having to put the word "facts" in quotes already answers your question.

          1. Fare la Volpe

            God, you too? It must be a really gentrified neighborhood if all of my friends keep moving there.

    1. Chichikovovich

      Wow. Good eye. That is a game ending tell right there.

      (Note to NYT: proper respect for facts would require the quotation marks on "news reporters" and "write" rather than "facts" in this sentence.)

      1. Fukui_sanYesOta

        Reality has been done for a while.

        the series of increasingly sophisticated Bell test experiments has convinced the physics community in general that local realism is untenable

        1. ShaveTheWhales

          Nice quote, but it's locality that is so over. I think the physics community still believes in reality.

          1. Fukui_sanYesOta

            Heh, yeah, I took that out of context a little. The Bell Inequality results mean either locality is done or that objective non-measured reality is done.

            I'm unaware of an experiment or result that can decide between the two and physicists plumped for locality.

  4. Schmannnity

    "I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about."

    That's the difference between "parroting" and "investigating" or "reporting," jackass.

    1. MaxNeanderthal

      You'd think that they'd compare the lifespan of newspapers that sort of print something that bears an approximation of the truth, eg. London Times, Le Figaro etc. with the lifespan of an abject, drooling sycophancy-sheet, eg, Any paper in the third reich, North Korea, Libya etc, and draw their own inferences… but then again, maybe not…

  5. user-of-owls

    "It's ok, Meghan, stop crying there by your typewriter. We'll just get you a vat full of Nair and that'll take care of things. Really, you'll see!"

  6. Dashboard Buddha

    "I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about."

    I'm not a journalist so help me out here…

    ISN'T THIS THEIR FUCKING JOB?!

  7. spends2much

    I watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report for news, and read the New York Times for laughs. I'm just kidding; I don't read the Times!

  8. PsycWench

    Think of how often they'd have had to challenge Sarah Palin in 2008. The challenges about the bridge "thanks but no thanks" claims alone would require an extra paper section.

  9. SorosBot

    No, Times, showing balance is the important thing, not truth. Keep with the "some people say the Earth is round, some flat" style of reporting, or else someone might say you have a liberal bias, which they'll do anyway despite it being bullshit, and that's the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

    1. Fukui_sanYesOta

      Oh yeah, that whole balance thing is definitely the way to go.

      "The general consensus among scientists is that humans evolved from a common ancestor with the apes over the course of millions of years. However, Kelvin W. Poltroon, Lucasian Professor of Evolution at the University of Wichita (formerly a branch of Arby's), claims that he has evidence suggesting that humans evolved from a goat-badger hybrid."

    2. Chillwillard

      Exactly. It's almost like Stockholm Syndrome, with Rightwingers being their captors (well, except that the NYT aren't really victims, they are just dumbasses who are afraid their shitty paper won't sell).

  10. widestanceshakedown

    Tis truly a sad state of affairs when a paper of record has to resort to facts just to keep readership.

  11. Schmannnity

    Would the NYT publish The Pentagon Papers now in the face of a hot denial from a Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld?

    1. HateMachine

      Sorry, but this entire scenario is implausible. There's simply nothing 'hot' about Donald Rumsfeld.

  12. spends2much

    I like the part that's all "but if we check out one fact, we'll have to check them all !" Cuz that would totally eat into their drinking time, and possibly cause, I don't know, an 8 hour work day.

  13. Mumbletypeg

    but but but I thought that whole logo in black and white showing the guy with the monocle meant he was scrutinizing everything that came along across his path?…

    oh, wrong publication.

  14. Chichikovovich

    There are people who feel the NYT ought to report facts, but there are skeptics who disagree.

        1. Boojum_Reborn

          And what is important is that we present arrant nonsense as it were the equivalent of indisputable fact, so that you can decide!

  15. freakishlywrong

    Look at fucking Politifact. They had to name a truth the "lie of the year" because wingnuts had won for the two previous years and everyone knows that facts should be fair and balanced. *Facepalms..

    1. SorosBot

      But the Ryan plan would still leave something called Medicare, so saying the plan to destroy Medicare would destroy Medicare was a pants-on-fire lie! Sort of like how, if I drove off with your care but left a Matchbox car behind, to say I stole your car would be a pants-on-fire lie.

  16. Baconzgood

    I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts”——-

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, from one of the last great bastions of investigative journalism in this country *dry clicking a revolver in my mouth*.

  17. bitchincamaro2

    BBC Radio "Hardtalk" interviewers know how it's done. Reporter interviewed the admiral in charge of Gitmo this morning. He pointed out the fact that the royal BS espoused by the admiral was opposed to his commander-in-chief's view of the efficacy of preventive detentions especially as it applies to Guantanomo. Not that they're perfect, but why do we have to rely on the BBC for this kind of responsible reporting?

    1. SorosBot

      Yeah, it's pretty sad that the only way to get good journalism in America is to watch or read foreign news sources.

    1. tessiee

      Considering that when Dumbya stole the 2000 election, the Onion's headline was "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over", you may be right.

  18. MissTaken

    I fully understand. I caught a case of the "facts"once, too. Started recycling, taking public transportation to work, and voting for Democrats. Yikes!

  19. BaldarTFlagass

    I just wish they would make the crossword easier. And how about some comics? That Marmaduke always gives me a chuckle.

  20. Mahousu

    Look, everyone at the Times is going to be laid off / bought out / early retired in the next year or so anyway. Why should they make their remaining time unpleasant by actually doing their jobs?

  21. Eve8Apples

    Will reporting on these "fact" things help sell more papers or increase ad revenue?
    If not, why bother?

    Stick to stories on celebrity hookups and hoity-toity fluff pieces. The NY Times – We're Fit to Print Pointless Bullshit.

  22. donner_froh

    The Times shouldn't challenge "facts". Their job (which they have been doing so wall for so many years) is act as a stenographer and megaphone for whatever set of lackeys shows up.

  23. WhatTheHeck

    Look, Ken, if I read sumpin on the interwebs, its gotta be right. And speaking as a primate, let me assure you twittering is for stupid humans.
    Oh, and by the way, there's a group of chimps just hangin around ready to step in for those NY Times reporters and they will work for peanuts. Who needs college anyways.

    1. Fukui_sanYesOta

      Next time on Dr Oz – can this miracle plant extract prevent lactose-intolerant Yoga deaths? We lift the lid on information you MUST know!

      man I hate that fucking Dr Oz show.

  24. UnholyMoses

    There's a reason a free media is in the First Amendment.

    Not the second. Not the third. Not the tenth.

    The FIRST.

    These fuckholes fail to understand why that is, which says a lot about the state of our media and the decline of democracy — and none of it good.

    1. Preferred Customer

      Well, yes, I agree, but a strict ordering puts quartering soldiers ahead of equal protection, so we can't get too caught up in that.

      1. Boojum_Reborn

        Well, perhaps, but the first ten were a package deal. And besides, soldiers will piss anywhere, so it was a big fucking deal.

  25. BaldarTFlagass

    "whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about."

    Ok, how about just report the obvious bullshit with a bit of snark.

    For instance, "a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” (nudge nudge, wink wink) a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation (*cough* blowjob *cough* eat me). That would be a nice compromise.

    1. Boojum_Reborn

      Or even "a court spokesman attempted to claim that a Justice of the United States Supreme Court could not understand a simple form, written in English, and for this reason failed to report this income He did not provide any evidence for this self-serving and patently unbelievable claim. In contrast, we asked 25 random people on the street to read the form and state whether such income needed to be reported. Only the schizophrenic homeless man agreed with Justice Thomas."

  26. SayItWithWookies

    Did President Obama really go on an apology world tour? Maybe, maybe not — we should teach the controversy. Oh — the facts show that he didn't? Well apparently not everyone agrees with the facts — and so we should teach that controversy.

  27. Callyson

    JFC…I've been going back and forth on whether I should give in to the permanence of the firewall and pay for access, but this settles it. I'll use my 20 freebies per month for Gail Collins and Paul Krugman, otherwise the NYT can get bent…

  28. Eve8Apples

    I'm so bored with political coverage anyway. I hope they do a front page, above the fold story on anal bleaching or flower arranging.

      1. C_R_Eature

        Nope, that was Cheney. George was busy playing Call of Duty and picking out fabric swatches for the Presidential Library.

    1. BarryOPotter

      My boss! And every fucking time I fall for it.. — "What? You want my opinion? Coming!" BYB…

  29. chicken_thief

    That could become tedious…

    Romney: “Obama goes around the world, apologizing for America…”
    NYT reporter: “Mr. Romney, Obama has never apologized.”
    Romney: “Well, some people thought he was apologizing.”
    NYT reporter: “Who?”
    Romney: “Me and my wife. My sons. Everyone at Fox News.”
    NYT reporter: “But they would be wrong. It is not correct.”
    Romney: “Ok, but we did not know that at the time.”
    NYT reporter: “Now that you know, would you like to try again?”
    Romney: “Sure! Obama has gone around the world making statements that people thought, at the time, were apologies.”

    Maybe they should make the headline "Romney Continues To Lie about Obama Apologies" or something.

  30. FakaktaSouth

    I say asking "should we challenge the obviously blatant lies these assholes tell or just keep quoting them as accepted fact?" is progress for the current media. Pathetic, thanks for FINALLY MERELY considering not speeding up the destruction of our nation progress, but still.

  31. owhatever

    Journalism 101 — Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Never screw the elephants when you are covering the circus. That's about it.

  32. OneYieldRegular

    Oh come off it with the navel-gazing. Why not just stick with letting "facts" be dealt with by the experts on the fashion page?

  33. HateMachine

    Jesus. No snark, it makes me weep that they even feel like they should ask readers about this, as though people would prefer to be lied to for the sake of balance. But at least they're considering it? Although they don't seem to be considering it very strongly.

    But thank you, Ken, this is your first piece in a while that has made me laugh in addition to the all-consuming despair, instead of just the despair.

  34. James Michael Curley

    Most curious. Is surprisingly similar to discussion we had after 'Glorious Revolution." We would knock back a few Votkas and Votka and conclude, "Is no news in Isvestia and no truth in Pravda."

  35. dijetlo

    In related news, Playboy has asked it's subscribers "Would you like to see more titts?"

    The world waits breathlessly for their response….

  36. BigDumbRedDog

    Reading this makes me glad that I have been evading the Time's paywall and reading all the shit for free this whole time. Do people actually pay money for this shit?

  37. whatupirondog

    TRUTH VIGILANTE ( TROOTH vi-ji-LAHNT-ay) noun

    1) A publication that does not publish any and all bullshit that falls out of a subject's mouth.

    Synonyms: total bringdown, unfairandunbalanced

    Example:

    "Should we go with this "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" report? The sources seem pretty sketchy to me…"

    "Sure, why not? What are we, truth vigilantes or something?"

    "lol, etc…"

  38. Dudleydidwrong

    Thanks. You folks have been a big help. I buy the goddamn paper every fucking day and wonder what is wrong with my eyesight. I always read that little non-sentence up in the left corner at the top of the paper as "ALL THE NUDES THAT'S FIT TO PRINT" and I keep wondering if they left that section out of the otherwise-dumb thing. Never have I seen a nude in that paper. Never, I tell ya.

    1. Eve8Apples

      I don't understand how they developed a reputation as a liberal rag if they don't even show a pair of tits every once in awhile.

  39. sati_demise

    oh, and that Clarence Thomas thing?
    How can one report his wifes income for years, then 'forget' how to read the fucking disclosure form when she is 'hired' by the Heritage Foundation? FACT checking might DISCLOSE that NYT, ya' think?

  40. DahBoner

    For a second there, I thought the Yoga Will Kill You article was ghost-written by Pat Robertson.

    But then I realized that only 31% of Americans exercise on a regular basis, so it was probably just another lazy American hipster…

  41. Jerri

    But "facts" might not make good fodder for shiny, trendpiecey, interactive slideshows and infographics, Ken!

  42. Preacher_Griz

    Just like the Prophets job was to write God's Word into His Bible WITHOUT QUESTION it is the reporters job to REPORT. Period. End of story. This is not difficult to understand.

  43. ttommyunger

    The publisher of the Pentagon Papers has devolved into nothing more than a daily Pentagon Pamphlet, sadly.

  44. Negropolis

    So, the NYT is really going to an existential "To be, or not to be" Hamlet soliloquy, eh?

    Bless their hearts.

  45. illnoise

    Do I get a free t-shirt for recognizing that photo as the first Mekons album, "The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen…"?

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