Truth Vigilanteism

The New York Times’ public editor has an earnest question to ask you:

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…

…[for example,] on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

To me, getting to the truth of a matter asserted is part & parcel of a journalist’s job. Anything less is nothing more than mindless transcription of spin and press releases. It’s as if the Times is asking whether doctors should treat patients, or whether lawyers should represent clients.  For years, it’s been a given that the fourth estate acts as a BS detector for a populace seeking information. Enough with the phony “some say” strawman, enough with letting people get away with repetitive lying.

Should the New York Times, the paper of record, be a “truth vigilante”? It should never have been otherwise.