Last week, the New York Times asked a question that I found to be absurd:
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.
Yes, and always. It is the job of journalists to research the claims that their interviewees make, and report on the facts.
The problem is that, in an effort to appear unbiased, many news sources simply report what both sides say without doing any fact-checking.
A local politician claims the world is flat, but one scientist disagrees. Who’s right? We report; you decide. Tonight at 11.
The New York Times adds:
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?
The problem with the “fact-check sidebar” is that it implies fact-checking is not real reporting, but analysis or opinion that must be kept out of the article to remain unbiased. Fact-checking someone and reporting that they are wrong is not bias. It is good journalism.
NPR’s On the Media covered this very topic in 2010, and here’s the quote that summarizes it all:
Ultimately, it’s the reporting that matters, reporting that is undistorted by attempts to appear objective, reporting that calls a lie a lie right after the lie, not in a box labeled “analysis,” reporting that doesn’t distort truth by treating unequal arguments equally.
Here’s Vanity Fair with the comic relief:
Just as New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane is concerned whether his newspaper is printing lies or the truth, we here at V.F. are looking for reader input on whether and when Vanity Fair should spell “words” correctly in the stories we publish.
One example: the word “maintenance” seems like it should only have one “a” in it. It should be “maintenence,” right? But it’s not. So is it our job as reporters and editors to spell it correctly?