We here at the Quantum Pontiff value truth in all its forms: theorems, lemmas, statistical inference, and hard experimental data, to name just a few. So I feel compelled to highlight the following.
In his column on the New York Times website, Author S. Brisbane states,
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. …
[An] example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected…
As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?
What are we teaching journalism students that would lead them to ask this question in ernest? After double checking my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st, I continued reading:
If [reporters should call out lies], then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:
“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”
I’m not sure which is worse… that Mr. Brisbane feels he, a professional journalist, needs to ask his readers for their opinion on how to be a journalist, or that he doesn’t know the answer to this question which looks (to any scientist at least) to be completely obvious.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” as a fellow once said. If you don’t know the answer to your question, Mr. Brisbane, then you are a stenographer, not a journalist, and you need to ask yourself why you would bother giving column inches in your newspaper to misinformation and distortions without bothering to correct them. Some things are true; you are not “biasing” anything by printing true statements.