Journalists incredulous as Times public editor asks: ‘Should the Times be a Truth Vigilante?’

New York Times Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane is attracting attention and derision for his latest blog post, "Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?"

"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," he writes.

This is connected to the idea of public fact checking, and how news organizations can integrate the clear calling out of falsehoods into reporting. For example, my recent look at the Associated Press' approach to fact checking included this relevant section.

The approach of knocking down falsehoods is now also being incorporated into other areas of coverage, according to Cal Woodward, a reporter and editor in AP’s Washington bureau who writes a significant number of political fact checks.

“There is and has been an effort to integrate this kind of accountability reporting … outside of politics and into spot stories, hard news stories as well,” he said. “Why would you let somebody get away with a misstatement and not deal with it?”

Brisbane's post lists a bunch of questions he seems to be pondering:

... how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?

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? How should The Times continue a function like this when we move to the general campaign and there’s less time spent in debates and more time on the road?

  • Craig Silverman

    Craig Silverman ( is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification.


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