12 January 2012

Dear New York Times

I just sent this letter.

After twenty-five years as a reader of the New York Times, this is my first missive to the paper.

I read with interest and incredulity your article Should the Times be a Truth Vigilante? I had to double-check whether I was reading The Onion.

Yes, I would like the New York Times to do its best to inform me about what the truth is. I am, in fact, mortified that you even think this is an open question. What else do you think your job might be?

I recognize that this will result in accusations of “partisanship”. Most of those accusers have already demonstrated that they will claim “partisanship” whatever policy the paper takes, so I do not see how you can regard them as relevant.

I recognize that this opens questions about what constitutes relevant truth. Yes, opinions do differ on the shape of the Earth. But you are journalists. You can figure it out.

Bonus: A nice burn from the editors at Vanity Fair.

Update: Public editor Arthur Brisbane thinks that people like me didn't understand his question.

I disagree. I think he didn't understand his question.

He asks whether the Times should rebut false claims by “newsmakers” in the article in which those people are quoted. Let me clarify the implications of that question. By “newsmakers” he means People In Power. So he is asking whether the heart of the story is the fact of what People In Power have said, or the facts of the subject that People In Power are talking about. If the former, it is incumbent on the paper to not distract from the core story by interjecting a rebuttal of a Person In Power. If the latter, it is incumbent on the paper to support the core story by rebutting People In Power when they deceive.

I am very clear on which I need and expect from a newspaper. Why isn't he?

Update: still broken.

Update: Not specifically the New York Times, but prominent journalist Michael Wolff, talking about meeting with Donald Trump, still doesn't get it.

I actually asked very few questions. I said tell me who you are. He talked and I took notes. Yes, you do want to be stenographers. That’s a very significant piece of journalism. We don’t want to hear [the reporter]. Write it down. You’re there to literally convey what someone in power says, and you bring it to people who want to know. Journalism is now a profession filled with people who are not journalists. They’re all under 25, talking to people under the age of 25. Let me send the message: stenographer is what you’re supposed to be.

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