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Dan Jacob

CEO , The IDIA Group

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Should newspapers be truth vigilantes?

Arthur Brisbane, Public Editor for the New York Times wrote an interesting article OpEd today (January 12, 2012) asking "Should the New York Times Be a Truth Vigilante?"

The article can be found here: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/should-the-times-be-a-truth-vigilante/

In a time where people are being bombarded with information, what role (if any) should newspapers play in correcting un-informed, egregiously inaccurate statements? What implications would this have?

To quote Brisbane:

"...[People] look to The [New York] Times to set the record straight. They 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?"

Interested to hear your thoughts on this one...

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    Jan 21 2012: Truth is essential in reporting. Truth in reporting must be unbiased, unflinching, and without reproach. As Albert Einstein said "Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters." Unless a newspaper is devolving into a gossip column on daily events, it must uphold the basic tenant of journalism.

    On the website "Journalism.org" the first Principle of Journalism is :
    " Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can--and must--pursue it in a practical sense. This "journalistic truth" is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation. Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built--context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever greater flow of data, they have more need--not less--for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context."

    This should not be a hard question, although the term vigilante indicates a desire or need to meet out punishment to those perceived to be wrong-doers, which is inflammatory, and negates the idea of unbiased journalistic integrity.

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