Friday, January 13, 2012

New York Times: Fox in Chicken Skin?

You too? Yeah, after the Times quoted me, it was like I was home free!

This article by the "Public Editor" of the Paper of Record, the New York Times, is close to the most absurd thing I've witnessed in all my days, at least journalism/media-wise. First, it's entitled "Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?" What?!?

Here's a taste (warning: might be laced with cyanide):
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.
This opening sentence -- in the freaking New York Times! -- was written by Arthur S. Brisbane, who, I guess, is paid to represent us, the readers of this vaunted rag. I assume he'll still have his job tomorrow. So will Stephen Colbert, so I suppose the rift in the fabric of the universe can heal.

Think on this: If I, as a high-school history teacher, asserted today, Friday the 13th of January, 2012, that the purpose of history and the role of historians are no longer to represent the truth of past human existence. Instead, I tell my students, I'm free as a historian to tell any story I want, as long as it's reasonably plausible. Then, to test my assumptions that this is the true role of the history profession, I ask my students if historians across the globe should be History Vigilantes.

Hitler misunderstood? "I said ewes, not Jews!"

How long would I hold on to my job? (Full disclosure: I have a degree in history and am a retired teacher, though I never actually taught a history class. Subtext full disclosure: I could be making this stuff up. Is that okay, Mr. Brisbane? Or should I be a Full-Disclosure Vigilante? Huh, huh??)

Of course, kudos and hat tips to Atrios of Eschaton for pointing me to this nonsense, and the same to Media Matters for taking its usual look at the deterioration of media in fourth-stage terminal America in the 21st century.

For fun, go to Arthur S. Brisbane's article -- an article that will live in infamy... -- and read some of the 278 WTF!! comments posted.

Holy Santorum, Batman, I just had a genius idea that I should run by the publisher of the New York Times. How about having a Super Public Editor to keep an eye on what the Public Editor is writing. Yeah, he could write an article called, I don't know, how about "Should the Times Have a Public Editor Vigilante?"

My gut reaction was clearly yes. Then, after thinking for a moment, I thought no. What I actually need to do is move to the Big Island and go off the grid.

Last time I saw him he was walking down this road mumbling something about public editors...

A final, serious observation: We who have been watching cable television -- okay, the so-called networks are barely better -- or reading mainstream media have been noticing for a while that "objective reporting" has morphed into he said/she said, both-sides-do-it, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand drool. When the Public Editor of the New York Times thinks he needs to weigh in by asking readers if they think reporters should embed facts into their reporting on "newsmakers," we've entered a world in which we realize the need for another special circle of Hell. It can be a narrow band, one just wide enough for a Public Editor of the Paper of Record.

We thought we had totally cornered the market on bullshit, and now with the Times' latest move, we don't know.

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