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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Readers Point the Way: Correcting Untruths

And open letter to the NY Times on their public call for comments. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell and Ferret Steinmetz)

Dear Arthur Brisbane,

“(the reading public) worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true… (i)s that the prevailing view?”
In the main, yes. Because, in the main, people understand that the supposed “biasness” of reporters is a false statement that typically comes form people who are biased.

“And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair?”
Don’t let anyone squeak through the cracks. Or start articles with, “the statements made by (person) have not been fact checked.” Also, do it BEFORE posting the story. It helps no one to post a story of an event, only to publish a “well, they were embellishing and misrepresenting” a week later. And perform this function on everybody, no matter what their position, political affirmation, or status. In other words, be objective and fair.

“Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?”
Possible, but leads to charges if being biased. See earlier answer on not letting them get through.

“Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?”
Oh, a host of them. Like doing audits to see how well you’re doing the checking. Checking the checkers. Not to mention decoupling the Times from the spouting of “news” leading to being “scooped” by other news outlets. And we’re not even discussing the costs associated, the huge “time suck” this would produce, and the extra people needed to pull this off, or the price of reporters who can do more digging, know where to dig, and come with an ability to remember history, fact, and trivia.

But, you know, one of the reasons people have been moving away from “established” news outlets and getting their information from elsewhere is that they see no difference between places like the NY Times and the Drudge Report. They can get the same quality of “news” from other places, and be entertained by them.

Stop being “blessed stenographers” who do little more than repeat what is told to you (usually in a mass communications way). Question the veracity of “experts.” Fail to play the games those who have the information/newsworthy want you to. And do the damn job an independent press was meant to do.

Are you going to lose in the short run? Yes. People will be pissed. Newsworthy people won’t give you press credentials. Some people will refuse to be interviewed by your reporters. But in the long run you just may regain the respect of the populace who will come to see you as a trusted broker and source for news. Once that happens, the other stuff will melt away.

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