I talked today in class about this column by the New York Times’ public editor Arthur Brisbane about whether reporters should be, as he put it (perhaps inadvisedly), “truth vigilantes.”
Read the column, and look at the comments.
Three questions: First, what do you hear all those readers saying back to Brisbane (generally speaking, leaving out the wackos)?
Second, what does it tell you about what readers expect of us?
Third, do you think that some kinds of in-context “fact checking” (rebuttals to the fact-free things people sometimes say) strike readers as bias? Why?
That last question comes from my awareness of what happened in Texas when a newspaper there started using Politifact in its stories and outright called a politician a liar. People supportive of the politician were outraged. Who did that newspaper think it was, calling someone a liar?
But in fact, I think that is the issue Brisbane was trying to get at in the column (and the one he wrote after it to try to clarify his question).
The Twitterati went berserk, and the Times’ managing editor felt compelled to weigh in.