There’s a new Public Editor in town!
For the first time, the NY Times has a Public Editor (aka ombudsman) who actually is addressing critical issues. Consider today’s column, for example: Margaret Sullivan in the NY Times:
In one of the most fascinating media-related pieces I’ve read in a while, Dan Froomkin interviews Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two longtime Washington observers who wrote a book together and soon after, they say, found themselves near pariahs in a city that didn’t want to hear what they had to say.
Mr. Froomkin’s piece from The Huffington Post is titled “How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign.”
And that bungled story, he says, is that Republicans lied their way through the campaign with impunity. As Mr. Froomkin writes, the pair’s major splash took place last spring, when The Washington Post published their essay “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem,” adapted from their book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.”
The two commentators, in this new piece, have harsh words for almost everybody, though they do give some credit to the New York Times Washington reporter Jackie Calmes, and a few others. Mr. Ornstein is also very tough on newspaper ombudsmen — and his points are duly noted here.
I find Mr. Ornstein and Mr. Mann’s observations smart, provocative and on target in many, though not all, places.
I disagree, for example, that the move toward fact-checking has made the press’s performance worse. On that subject, I agree with The Times’s political editor, Richard Stevenson, who told me last September in a columnI wrote on this subject that he saw the move toward “truth-squading” as “one of the most positive trends in journalism that I can remember.” But to take it one step further, I believe that fact-checking should be more integrated into every story and not treated as a separate entity off to the side.
And I think the two commentators fail to see the progress that The Times and other newspapers are making – away from false equivalence and toward stating established truths and challenging falsehoods whenever possible.
That progress, granted, isn’t happening fast enough or – more important — sweepingly enough. And their point of view ought to provoke some journalistic soul-searching.
I’ll be interested in Times readers’ reactions. Based on voluminous reader reaction whenever I’ve written about fact-checking and false balance, there seems to be almost nothing that they care about more.
Read the articles at the links. Fascinating. And long-overdue and most welcome.