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Duly Noted

Thursday, Jan 12, 2012, 12:17 pm

NYT Public Editor Wonders If It’s Fair To Point Out Politicians’ Lies

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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New York Times' public editor Arthur Brisbane took the remarkable step of asking his readers whether they want the paper to be a "truth vigilante," pointing out when public figures say things that aren't true.

He has noticed a remarkable trend in the mailbag:

[The irate readers who are writing to the NYT demanding the paper call out falsehoods] worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

Is that the prevailing view? And if so, 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?

Since you asked, Mr. Brisbane: Yes, the New York Times should be a Truth Vigilante! Although, I prefer the term "Truth Cop" because that implies that telling the truth is your full-time job, not just something you do once in a while, when you just can't stand the bullshit anymore.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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