Broken news: The New York Times pulls a Brisbane

Arthur S. Brisbane, public editor for The New York Times, asks “Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?“:

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.

OK, Brisbane seems unclear on both sides of “All the news” and “fit to print,” so let’s review.

“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

That’s the job. That’s it. That is what being a reporter and a journalist means.

If your mother tells you she loves you and you turn around and repeat, “My mother loves me,” or even the slightly more careful, “My mother says she loves me,” then you’re not a reporter or a journalist. You’re not reporting, just repeating. That’s stenography or gossip, not journalism.

Checking it out is what makes a reporter and what makes a report.

Let’s step back to an even more basic level. Brisbane is so at sea in even Journalism 101 that perhaps we need to review some material from the Remedial Journalism 090.

For a story to be a story, it must answer W, W, W, W, W and H.

If you don’t answer those questions — accurately — then you haven’t reported the story.

“My opponent has the worst attendance record of anyone in the legislature,” the state senator said Thursday at a campaign stop on Main Street.

That won’t do. It doesn’t answer the basic question of “what?” To know what happened on Thursday on Main Street, the reporter must check it out. The reporter — this is the job, the very definition of the job — must check to determine whether or not the opponent does, in fact, have “the worst attendance record of anyone in the legislature.”

Without determining whether or not that claim is true it is impossible to tell this story because without determining whether or not that claim is true it is impossible to know what the story is.

If the claim is true, then the answer to “what?” is that the candidate criticized her opponent’s poor attendance record. That’s news. If the claim is false, then the answer to “what?” is something else — either the story is that the candidate has committed an embarrassing gaffe by getting her facts wrong, or the story is that the candidate is attempting to mislead the public. Either way, that’s big news.

In any case, it’s impossible to write the story — to write the headline, the lede, the nut graf — until the reporter checks it out and determines whether or not the candidate’s claim is, in fact, true.

If the reporter can’t be bothered to check out the claim then the editors shouldn’t bother to print the report because it’s not a report. If the reporter doesn’t check out the claim, then the reporter cannot tell us what happened. And if a reporter cannot be bothered to tell us the answer to “what?” then we have no reason to trust what they say about who, where, when, why or how.

Arthur Brisbane’s column is an admission of journalistic malpractice. He should be told to step away from his desk and go home before he does any more damage. The New York Times ought to be furious for what he has done to its once-respected name.

And his name should become a shorthand epithet for all who are clueless about the most basic purpose of their jobs. The next time a cornerback totally flubs the coverage to allow an easy touchdown, the announcer should say, “Boy, he really pulled a Brisbane on that play. He looked like he had no idea why he was even on the field …”

Below the jump are links to some of my previous posts on this very same subject, plus a roundup of a small slice of the much-deserved shock, horror and blistering ridicule of the Times‘ epic Brisbane.

Previously here:

Jay Rosen: “So whaddya think: should we put truthtelling back up there at number one?

Something happened in our press over the last 40 years or so that never got acknowledged and to this day would be denied by a majority of newsroom professionals. Somewhere along the way, truthtelling was surpassed by other priorities the mainstream press felt a stronger duty to. These include such things as “maintaining objectivity,” “not imposing a judgment,” “refusing to take sides” and sticking to what I have called the View from Nowhere.

No one knows exactly how it happened, for it’s not like a policy decision came down at some point. Rather, the drift of professional practice over time was to bracket or suspend sharp questions of truth and falsehood in order to avoid charges of bias, or excessive editorializing. Journalists felt better, safer, on firmer professional ground–more like pros–when they stopped short of reporting substantially untrue statements as false. One way to describe it (and I believe this is the correct way) is that truthtelling moved down the list of newsroom priorities. Other things now ranked ahead of it.

But wait a minute: how can telling the truth ever take a back seat in the serious business of reporting the news? That’s like saying medical doctors no longer put “saving lives” or “the health of the patient” ahead of securing payment from insurance companies. It puts the lie to the entire contraption. It devastates journalism as a public service and honorable profession.

And so officially, this event (“truthtelling moved down the list of newsroom priorities”) never occurred, even though in reality it did. Because no one was ready for that devastation. Therefore no reckoning (wait: how could this happen?) ever took place. Denial was successfully maintained, even as criticism built and journalists inside the fraternity announced what was happening. …

Charlie Pierce: “The End of Truth

Newspapers today are run by terrified beancounters. The industry is dying. They know it. They are casting about for any strategy to delay the inevitable and, personally, they are casting about for any parachute they can find. The beancounters owe their primary allegiance to “the company,” and not to the reporter in the field. The beancounter editors and sub-editors at many — if not most — major newspapers and broadcast outlets would sell their grandmothers to the Somali pirates for a bigger office and two steps further up the masthead, which will get them closer to where the parachutes are kept. Most newspapers — most especially, the New York Times — have forced upon their reporters what are called “ethics codes,” but which, in reality, are speech codes written to prevent the beancounters and careerists from having to answer angry phone calls from wingnuts.

Will Bunch: “The American media still can’t handle a lie

When journalists find its easier to repeat provable lies rather than challenge them, it’s time to ask ourselves why we even bothered to become journalists.

John Aravosis: “NYT public editor unsure if paper should publish lies unquestioned

You can’t just repeat the lies and be done with it. At the very least you quote someone countering the lie, but even then the damage is done (I say you’re a pedophile, you say “no I’m not” — the paper prints both and now people wonder). Often what reporters do is, rather than quote an authority pointing out the lie, they quote a partisan — which makes it look more like a he-said-she-said than an irrefutable rebuttal. What reporters should do depends upon the nature of the allegation (if it’s a known lie then get an expert to refute it, if it truly is an opinion, then get an opinion from the other side).

Greg Sargent: “What are newspapers for?

Brisbane suggests it’s an open question whether reporters who are amplifying assertions made by candidates should tell readers whether those assertations are true or not. …

I think there’s a simple way to drive home to Brisbane why reporters should include info enabling readers to judge such claims.

The Times itself has amplified the assertion — made by Romney and Rick Perry — that Obama has apologized for America, without any rebuttal, at least three times: Here, here, and here. I urge Brisbane to check them out. If he does, he’ll see that any Times customer reading them comes away misled. He or she is left with the mistaken impression that Obama may have, in fact, apologized for America, when he never did any such thing.

In other words, in all those three cases, the Times helped the GOP candidate mislead its own readers — with an assertion that has become absolutely central to the Republican case against Obama. Whatever the practical difficulties of changing this, surely we can all agree that this is not a role newspapers should be playing, particularly at a time when voters are choosing their next president.

Juli Weiner: “Should Vanity Fair Be a Spelling Vigilante?

Just as New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane is concerned whether his newspaper is printing lies or the truth, we here at V.F. looking for reader input on whether and when Vanity Fair should spell “words” correctly in the stories we publish.

One example: the word “maintenance” seems like it should only have one “a” in it. It should be “maintenence,” right? But it’s not. So is it our job as reporters and editors to spell it correctly?

Another example: who decides “Michele Bachmann” should be spelled with one “l” in “Michele” and two “n”s in “Bachmann”? I’ve never seen it spelled like that in any other circumstance, so should we print it just because that’s how she spells it? I don’t know.

See also:

 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The media has also swapped truth telling for that nebulous thing, “access”. Whatever that means in the minds of reporters who have it, it seems to in practice mean making sure to massage the news to please powerful politicians (particularly Republicans) in exchange for being able to hob-nob with the power-brokers.

    It’s a shame it took this long for the media to finally wake up and wonder if things might be juuuuuuuust a shade out of kilter.

  • Albanaeon

    I think tomorrow we will see that headache relievers saw a significant jump in sales from the amount of head/desks, face/palms, and neurons dying from the sheer stupidity of Brisbane’s editorial and later pathetic attempt to cast the irate commenters as idiots who don’t understand the complexities of “facts.”

    A truly sad day for the reporting world.

  • Lori

    This mess did give Red State another opportunity to be their typically unintentionally hilarious selves: http://www.redstate.com/aglanon/2012/01/12/the-new-york-times-ponders-are-we-biased-enough/

  • Matri

    ROFL. That last line just slayed me!

    Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?

    No, it’s not

    Reporting the truth is not fair! How else are the Republicans going to get any votes otherwise?

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    I didn’t even have the heart and/or stomach to click through when I saw the headline and opening words on a Google News search. *sighs* Any especially funny highlights?

    Brisbane has also posted a defense of his question. Comments on this one were closed even quicker than on the original — 46 comments over 50 minutes versus 278 comments over 6 hours 14 minutes.

  • http://twitter.com/Penh Penh

    Corddry: I’m a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time
    repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other.
    Little thing called “objectivity” — might wanna look it up
    someday.
    Stewart: Doesn’t objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence,
    and calling out what’s credible and what isn’t?
    Corddry: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well — sounds like someone wants
    the media to act as a filter! “Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon
    investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality!” Listen, buddy:
    not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people
    listening to me.

  • Matri

    Brisbane has also posted a defense of his question.

    No, Mr Brisbane. Your “clarification” does not change the answer to your original question one iota. By printing lies you give it credibility it cannot have, and by presenting the truth as an “opposing view” you debase facts into nothing more than a lie’s peer.

    That may be an opinion or political rhetoric, but we supplied the context for readers to assess it.

    On the other hand, in Romney’s defense, we quickly explained in detail
    the true context of his “I like being able to fire people” quote

    No, Miss Abramson. Those two actions show your bias coming out. You give credence to Romney’s mud-slinging attack by not checking his “opinion” thoroughly enough, then provide him with an excuse for his gaffe.

  • Anonymous

    My first reaction on reading Brisbane’s question was, “What the hell kind of god damned idiot are you?”
    That was my second reaction, too, only with more cussing. 

    Also, I love this:
    (From the first post)
    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.

    (From the second post)
    My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question.

    They’re the exact same thing. He’s basically saying,
    “So I know that in my first post, it sounded like I was asking what color the sky is, but what I’m really asking is: What color is the sky?

    And I know I’m being pissy about this, but I lost my shit around the time Newt Gingrich said that Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist, and I haven’t been able to find it since.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Okay, this is a weird connection, but I just finished watching an episode of Chopped. For anyone unfamiliar with the show, it involves chefs getting a basket of mystery ingredients, and have to make a dish within a time limit, using all of the ingredients in some way. There are 3 rounds, appetizer, entree, and dessert. It starts with 4 chefs, with one being “chopped” at the end of each round. Judging is based on presentation, taste, and creativity.

    In the episode I just watched, in the very first round, one of the chefs left out one of the mandatory ingredients. It not only never ended up on the plate, it was never even taken out of the package. Yes, it was an honest mistake, but it was a mandatory ingredient. This should have automatically disqualified her. But the judges let her move on to the next round anyway. She didn’t win, but did, in fact, make it to the final round.

    For me, this destroyed the integrity of the show. Even if someone scored zeroes in all three categories, they have to come ahead of someone who doesn’t follow the rules, and leaves out a mandatory ingredient. Otherwise, what’s to keep someone else from leaving out an ingredient they don’t like, if they can still make it into the next round?

    This is the same way I feel about the Times right now. Truth should be a mandatory ingredient for a newspaper. If they are reporting a fact, it should be a fact. You should be able to prove it is a fact. If you can’t, this needs to be pointed out. A news article is not an op-ed or a theater review. I expect those to be opinions. The news is supposed to inform and educate me. There is an expectation that what you tell me in a news article is factual. If it isn’t, it neither informs, nor educates. And if this reporter doesn’t think that is important, how can I trust any reporter on that paper? The Times is one of the most prestigious papers in the country. If they think they got that way by not checking facts, by not doing their due diligence, by reporting truth, mistakes and lies with similar weight, they are sadly mistaken. If they think they are so prestigious that they no longer have to do those things, maybe it is time for the Grey Lady to step aside, and let real journalists take over.

  • Anonymous

    “Another example: who decides ‘Michele Bachmann’ should be spelled with one ‘l’ in ‘Michele’ and two ‘n’s in ‘Bachmann’? I’ve never seen it spelled like that in any other circumstance, so should we print it just because that’s how she spells it? I don’t know.”

    Where’s her birth certificate? I want to see her birth certificate! If the name on her birth certificate (the one from the hospital where she was born, not that obviously-fake “Certificate-of-Live-Birth”-thing that they keep at the County/State Records office and try to pass off as her birth certificate) doesn’t have one “l” and two “n”s, then Celestia only knows what the hell else she’s hiding! For all we know she may have been born in *le gasp!* Nebraska! *clutches pearls* We, as Americans, need to know that our presidential candidates are *exactly* who they say they are, come from *exactly* where they say they come from, and that their names conform *exactly* to arbitrary “standards” set by Whomever Happens To Be In Charge Of Putting People In Office at the moment. Because *THAT’S* The (New) American Way!

  • Kirala

    I feel sorry for Brisbane. I could easily have been in a similar situation, when I was in 6th grade, being academically challenged for the first time in my life. If I had actually asked out loud, “Hey, do you think I should stop looking at my classmates’ tests for ‘inspiration’ and recording their correct answers on my test? Is that not what I’m supposed to be doing?” … well, I could have been in the same boat. (For the record, I did stop the minute the question crossed my mind.)

    And yet I had drifted down the path so gradually that it was a genuine surprise when I realized how wrong I had been. I can only imagine that as an adult, with years of justifying my foolish, unethical actions, it would be harder to admit wrongdoing.

  • Anonymous

    I was probably the only person ever to look at other people’s Scantrons for the sole purpose of pacing myself.

    No, really.  I had the hardest time finishing standardized tests as a kid because I would be about 10-20 problems from the end when time ran out.  I started to make up for this by glancing at someone on the other side of the room every 20 minutes, to see how far down their bubbles went.  I would have been greatly offended by accusations that I was cheating, because as far as I’m concerned, that requires you to actually copy someone else’s work or answers, and I wasn’t doing that at all.

  • Thrownaway

    From Brisbane’s attempt to say NO U:
    “To illustrate the difficulty of it, the first example I used in my
    blogpost concerned the Supreme Court’s official statement that Clarence
    Thomas had misunderstood the financial disclosure form when he failed to
    report his wife’s earnings.

    If you think that should be rebutted
    in the text of a story, it means you think a reporter can crawl inside
    the mind of a Supreme Court justice and report back. Or perhaps you
    think the reporter should just write that the “misunderstanding” excuse
    is bull and let it go at that. I would respectfully suggest that’s not a
    good approach.”

    No one is asking him to be psychic. In this very concrete example, couldn’t a reporter, say, *look* at the filing instructions and figure out if a misunderstanding was possible?  Likely?  Laughable?  As Fred says, check it out.  Not difficult to suss out what to check on, really, no mind-reading necessary.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CGQFSRJBMFOTG2GKDP3GGC5S6U Cor

    And, this is why I don’t subscribe to newspapers.  All they’re going to do is repeat talking points, and I can pick that up anywhere.  If I get my news from the internet and check up on conflicting comments, I’m far more likely to find out whether something is true and newsworthy or not.  I would love to subscribe to a challenging, investigative newspaper.

  • Winters

    Hey all. As a Peace Officer I have been pondering something. When I arrive at a report of a shooting and encounter/detain a person matching the suspect description; should I make any attempt to verify his claims that he was merely out for a jog with his Glock? If he tells me that the blood on his shirt is from a bloody nose, is it my place to investigate my suspicion that the amount of blood is not consistent with his claim? Should I take a quick gander around the area for a corpse or a badly wounded person? Because I could just write in my report that the suspect said that he was not involved in any crime. I would be telling the truth right? I mean, he did say that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Considering that by this point “good faith” has replaced “probable cause” as the legal basis for arrest all you need to do is swear up and down you smelled marijuana, these days, it seems.

  • Anonymous

    Somewhere down the chain of links: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-12-2009/cnn-leaves-it-there

    Posts like this make me really wonder. Normally, when people ask what I’m majoring in and I say “Journalism,” they either A) assume I mean something– anything– other than print journalism, and move on to nod and smile etc, B) engage in political discussion, or C) go “Oh, I do hope you don’t mean print journalism. That’s a dying industry, it’ll be gone in another few years.” (That’s actually the most common response from strangers.)

    And I shrug, grit my teeth, and try not to launch into an earnest defense of print journalism as it once was, and could be again– that the world, the nation, needs to be informed, and we’re never going to be rid of the endless stream of corruption in DC and Wall Street until we have an informed nation, and there’s a reason why the constituents of both parties are, for the majority, disgusted by their party, and only an informed people (and by extension a competent press) will solve this…

    But when stuff like this comes out, I have to wonder if they’re not on the right side after all. Has this stuff been ingrained so heavily? Is it really so deep an industry problem? Is there even a way to fix this anymore? I don’t know.

  • Anonymous

    Somewhere down the chain of links: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-12-2009/cnn-leaves-it-there

    Posts like this make me really wonder. Normally, when people ask what I’m majoring in and I say “Journalism,” they either A) assume I mean something– anything– other than print journalism, and move on to nod and smile etc, B) engage in political discussion, or C) go “Oh, I do hope you don’t mean print journalism. That’s a dying industry, it’ll be gone in another few years.” (That’s actually the most common response from strangers.)

    And I shrug, grit my teeth, and try not to launch into an earnest defense of print journalism as it once was, and could be again– that the world, the nation, needs to be informed, and we’re never going to be rid of the endless stream of corruption in DC and Wall Street until we have an informed nation, and there’s a reason why the constituents of both parties are, for the majority, disgusted by their party, and only an informed people (and by extension a competent press) will solve this…

    But when stuff like this comes out, I have to wonder if they’re not on the right side after all. Has this stuff been ingrained so heavily? Is it really so deep an industry problem? Is there even a way to fix this anymore? I don’t know.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    Just popping in to say that I’m absolutely not the same person as Winters. Also, WTF is wrong with Brisbane and the NYT that they even have to ask this in the first place?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    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…this is an example of exactly the sort of illogical statement you would make in a bad sci-fi story to cause a robot’s head to explode.

  • Anonymous

    *grumbles quietly about our thread-system, shuffles away*

  • Nekouken

    Well, no. But then, you’re not a reporter, and you have a different set of ethics. You’re supposed to bring them in or detain them on a basis of probable cause while you and other peace officers, now aware of the situation, investigate the veracity of his story. If his seemingly implausibe story does, in fact, check out, then yes, you let him go.

  • JohnK

    Because I could just write in my report that the suspect said that he
    was not involved in any crime. I would be telling the truth right? I
    mean, he did say that.

    No, but if he gives a really implausible story about killing a rogue coyote threatening his dog, check his ID. He might be the Governor of Texas and in that case you should probably just give him a ride home. His wife is probably worried sick.

  • winters

    Invisible
    Neutrino.

    This is unrelated; of course, to the point I was making about the obvious
    absurdity of a Peace Officer attempting to be “balanced” by reporting
    what was said without checking the truth-value of those statements. If your
    response was connected to this point, I confess that I have missed the
    connection.

    That said, since we are now on this topic, I would invite you to read that
    article you linked to again, and consider whether it says what you think it
    says.

    As the article you linked to points out, good faith is unrelated to probable
    cause. The article clearly and specifically states that a discussion of good
    faith is incoherent when discussing an Officer who makes a probable cause
    arrest based only upon her or his knowledge at the time. See the following
    excerpts.

     

    “”good faith” is a necessary consideration only
    when police rely on a warrant (or similar independent legal authorization) as a
    basis for a search or seizure. When police instead perform a legitimately
    warrantless search or seizure, then an officer’s reasonable belief in facts
    amounting to probable cause is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the
    Fourth Amendment.”

     

    “If the officer performing a search is relying on his own
    knowledge of facts, rather than on a warrant, it would be strange to say that
    the officer had a “good faith” (that is, objectively reasonable) but
    erroneous belief that a search or seizure was objectively reasonable.”

     

    Based
    upon the above, I am unable to find any logical connective tissue between the
    content of this article and your statement that “”good faith”* has
    replaced “probable cause” as the legal basis for arrest” followed by
    your assertion that a Peace Officer need only “swear up and down you smelled
    marijuana”.

     

    An
    arrest based solely upon an odor of Marijuana is not a valid arrest (full
    disclosure; I have never arrested anyone for possession of Marijuana because I
    just don’t care about Marijuana and my home state affords Peace Officers with
    explicit discretion). An odor of Marijuana might give rise to a Reasonable Suspicion,
    which would justify a “Terry stop” although not a “Terry Frisk”. An odor of
    Marijuana would not justify a search of a person. An objectively reasonable
    belief that Marijuana is being smoked (and thereby evidence is being destroyed)
    does give rise to an exigency justification for a warrantless search of a home
    or vehicle for the purposes of securing the evidence against destruction only.
    Once an Officer can no longer assert that evidence is being destroyed the
    proper procedure is to keep the home or vehicle secure and obtain a warrant for
    continued search. None of this can be meaningfully tied to good faith.

     

    Good
    faith operates when a Peace Officer is ordered by a non Peace Officer to make
    an arrest or search, usually by means of a warrant. I arrest people on warrants
    all the time. When I contact someone on, for example, a traffic stop; I query
    them through NCIC. A dispatcher will advise me that NCIC has an entry
    indicating that the subject has a warrant for their arrest. This gives rise to
    “reasonable suspicion” and at that time I will detain them (usually in
    handcuffs for safety), but I will explicitly advise them that they are NOT
    under arrest, but are detained pending determination of the validity of the
    warrant. The dispatcher will then contact the agency of record and confirm with
    them that the warrant is valid at that very moment. Then and only then I will
    advise the person that they are under arrest and at that point I will conduct a
    search incident to arrest. I do not search them while detained because I have
    no right to (although I can frisk them if I have articulable and reasonable
    facts supporting an inference that they are likely to be armed). If during the
    search AFTER ARREST I find evidence of another crime (a stolen IPod, for
    example) and I later learn that the warrant was in fact NOT valid, but that the
    error leading to my “good faith” belief that it was valid did not lie with
    myself or any agent of my department it is likely that “good faith” will
    operate and allow me to bring the evidence of the stolen IPod into prosecution
    for the theft.

     

    Assuming
    that it is not an IPod, but rather Marijuana. Suppose I contact someone and I
    do, in fact, smell the odor of (non-burning) Marijuana on them. Any notion that
    this fact alone justifies a search or arrest is based on ignorance of law and
    legal precedent. I can legally attempt to gain their consent for a search. If I
    do so and find Marijuana I can arrest them. If I do not gain consent, exigency,
    or search-incident-to-arrest (and therefore do not actually find Marijuana) it
    is absurd to believe, and irresponsible to claim, that I can arrest them based
    solely on an odor. To further explicate this, try to imagine a Peace Officer
    bringing a charge against someone for possession of Marijuana by stating that
    they smelled Marijuana on the subject, but that upon search of the subject no
    Marijuana was found. It becomes immediately apparent that the odor alone is not
    illegal and cannot give rise to an arrest, but of course without the arrest
    there is no legal justification for the search in the first place.

     

    As
    to your statement that “Even an error in a warrant now no longer necessarily
    invalidates it”; that statement cannot be justified by the article linked to.
    The article was not discussing a warrant with an error in it. It was discussing
    an arrest based upon a warrant that was no longer valid (in effect, it no
    longer existed). The Officer was advised at the time that the valid warrant did
    exist, but it did not. The Officer acted in “good faith” that a valid warrant
    existed because at that time there was no way for him to further verify the
    existence of the valid warrant. The warrant was not held up despite an error in
    it (as you imply), but rather his search of the suspect was held up. That
    search was based solely on the fact that the suspect was under arrest for the
    warrant. The search turned up Probable Cause for a completely separate arrest
    and charge. Once the warrant was determined to be invalid, the question became
    whether the search was valid. The search was justified only by a “Search
    Incident to Arrest” which applies only if the subject is in fact under arrest.
    He was under arrest, but he was under arrest for an invalid warrant. That was
    the question, not whether warrant with errors in them are still valid. The
    warrant was not valid, and the error was not in the warrant, it was in a
    database that tracks the existence and validity of warrants.

     

    To
    summarize:

    1)    As far as I know the
    conflation of Good Faith and Probable Cause is not in operation in this country
    at this time.

    2)    Nothing
    in the article that you linked to tends to support any part of the assertion
    that you made

    3)    The
    assertion that all a Peace Officer needs to do is “swear up and down you smelled marijuana” seems to ascribe malicious
    intent to Peace Officers in general and assume (without attempting to support
    this assumption) that they (in general) have a tendency to engage in outright
    falsehood to justify arrests. I am sure that some do. I do not believe, and
    have never seen any evidence, that this is so common as to support the strawman
    image of Peace Officers that you have used here.

    4)    The assertion that all
    a Peace Officer needs to do is “swear
    up and down you smelled marijuana” in order to effect an arrest is demonstrably
    factually untrue.

    5)    The article you linked was
    not discussing whether warrants with errors in them are valid. It was
    discussing whether a search conducted incident to an arrest made on good faith,
    but based upon an invalid warrant, was a valid search.

     

    None of this has anything to do with my original post, but
    there are sufficient real issues with the abridgment of our 4th
    Amendment rights without people making them up. It is a Very Good Thing to
    mistrust our Police, our Courts, and our Government at large. It is a Very Good
    Thing to examine their actions, motives, powers, and statements. It is,
    however, a Bad Thing to level untrue assertions from a position of insufficient
    understanding or deliberate calumny. My concern is that your statements have so
    little in common with the sole piece of evidence you offer in support of them.
    I will tell you that as of late I have had no shortage of reasons to be
    disgusted by the actions of fellow Law Enforcement Officers, and that I think
    it is vitally important that non Peace Officers continue to be suspicious of
    us, and that Peace Officers such as myself continue to be suspicious of
    ourselves and to take seriously our responsibility to protect the rights of those
    we believe to be criminals every bit as zealously as we protect the rights of
    those we believe to be victims. Like any other right, if we don’t believe in it
    for those we disdain, then we don’t believe in it.

     

    I am not making these arguments because Law Enforcement
    happens to be my tribe. I’m not always well liked in my tribe because I’ve
    never been very tribal. I’m making these arguments because they serve the
    function of correcting what I believe to be several dangerous misconceptions.
    It is vitally important that citizens educate themselves as to the legal rights
    that they do have, and by extension repudiate assertions that they don’t have
    those rights.

  • Kish

    Your
    comment
    is
    unreadable.

  • http://lightning.myopenid.com/ lightning

    In fairness, the question was not whether reporters should fact-check sources.  It was whether the corrections should be in the original article or in a sidebar.  Nobody reads sidebars.  Additionally, as Fred pointed out, the fact that the source is lying/ mistaken/ misinformed/ whatever is *part of the story*, if not the story itself.

    We also have to keep in mind that politicians are experts at “non-answer answers”; things that sound like answers but aren’t.  Reporters should call out their sources on these, but I get the feeling that most reporters (including Brisbane) wouldn’t recognize a “fact” if it bit them on the arse.  There are “facts”, there are “opinions”, there are “judgements”, there are “emotions”, and there is “noise”.  We need reporters (and editors, etc) to be able to tell, and point out, the differences.

  • Damanoid

    Recently Fred Clark posted a caution about the irresponsibility of voting/not voting according to unreasonable criteria of moral purity, rather than an informed decision between potentially unpalatable alternatives. ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/01/04/duverger-kushner-bonhoeffer/ )

    This has been worrying me a lot lately, because I cannot figure out how a person like myself, who is both ignorant and fairly stupid, can be expected to make that decision properly.  There’s not much that can be done about the stupid, but at least being informed about the candidates and issues ought to help somewhat.  I recall learning in high school civics that an informed electorate is vital to a democracy.

    But stuff like this makes me wonder if it’s even possible for me to be an informed voter.  Where is one supposed to look for reliable information and analysis?  Not to the New York Times, apparently.  The candidates certainly aren’t going to tell you the truth.  There are even organizations paid to distort and obscure the facts.  So where is somebody like me supposed to turn?  How can I do my share for society when I can’t interpret the choices?

  • winters

    Yes. I wrote that in Word and pasted it in. It looked fine until the comment was fully processed and posted. I didn’t try to re-post it because all of the words are there and in the right order, so I’m assuming that people can read the words and forgive the formatting.

  • Lori

     
    This has been worrying me a lot lately, because I cannot figure out how a person like myself, who is both ignorant and fairly stupid  

     

    I think the fact that you know that there are thing you don’t know, and that you are concerned about not knowing them provides pretty conclusive proof that you’re not stupid. 

  • Apocalypse Review

    Fair enough. I sit corrected and thank you for the extensive reply. :)

    - Apocalypse Review who is also Invisible Neutrino because some computers hate disqus.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It really bugs me that as newspapers die off, they’ve tried to evolve out of journalism and into “Uncritically parrot back whatever lies we are told,” given that “Uncritically parrot back whatever lies we are told” is the one subset of news reporting where newspapers are UNQUESTIONABLY suited far less well than newer media forms. At a time where they need to find a way for them to contribute something to differentiate themselves from the more modern, more accessible new media, instead of doing the kind of in-depth analysis that *can’t* be done by TV news and which bloggers don’t have the resources for, they just jump on the “Our job is to parrot the claims of others without passing judgment” bandwagon.

  • ako

    Why do so many people think that it’s a choice between being objective and being factually accurate?  If you’re doing objectivity right, you will find out if, for example, a candidate’s statement is factually untrue by looking at what exactly the candidate said, what the facts are, and whether there’s a discrepancy.  In cases where you can’t find out the truth without being psychic, then you print the verified factual evidence, but it’s just being lazy to act as if those situations are all that journalists encounter.

  • Damanoid

    Thank you Lori.  I do think however that it is quite possible to be stupid and know it, and be unhappy about it.  Maybe stupid is a harsh word to use. but my problem extends beyond just voting.  I have difficulty interpreting data to reach good decisions and apply myself effectively, and it has resulted in a series of impressively bad life choices. 

    Which is really neither here nor there, except to say that being poorly informed is not the whole problem.  The obvious reply to my concern should be: “Just work harder to inform yourself.  Read the papers, analyze what you read, keep your head out of the sand.”  I assume that’s how others decide which way to vote, but my judgment is bad and I can’t see the likely results of my choices.

    That’s why I need the help of smarter people who understand the big picture and how the system works.  But who and where are they?  How can I tell whether a given politician is a better choice than the alternative, or if they are just more skilled at lying?  And if I can’t tell this stuff to begin with, do I have any business voting at all?

     That’s why it’s so frustrating to me to read stories like the above.  They make it seem like I can’t rely on anybody to provide accurate information.  It makes me paranoid and makes me feel like my vote is ultimately a sham.

  • ako

    Based on what you’ve posted here, you really don’t strike me as lacking in intelligence, but regardless, everyone has some limits in terms of intellectual ability which makes it impossible to learn certain things, and impractical to learn others (because of the time and effort required).  “Just work harder and research more” isn’t a good answer given the amount of work it takes to get information and the amount of time and effort it requires most people to find that out.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Why do so many people think that it’s a choice between being objective
    and being factually accurate?  If you’re doing objectivity right, you will
    find out if, for example, a candidate’s statement is factually untrue
    by looking at what exactly the candidate said, what the facts are, and
    whether there’s a discrepancy.

    Yes, but when you report the actual facts, it makes Republicans look bad, therefore it’s LIBERAL BIASED MEDIA!!@!!1!one!

    I wish I thought I was joking.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Also, WTF is wrong with Brisbane and the NYT that they even have to ask this in the first place?

    Most big-shot reporters are obsessed with Access.  Call Important People on their BS, and they won’t invite you to their press-releases and parties.

    Most mass-media in the USA are subsidiaries of….4 I think?  large conglomerates.  Their CEOs do NOT want their golf-buddies being made to look bad in public.

    I wonder, is it company policy to confiscate all professional pride from their employees, or are they allowed to keep it at home?

    Proving once again who’s REALLY leading the pack:  Back in 2006, in the middle of lambasting Dubya, Stephen Colbert took time out to lambaste the press for being overpaid stenographers:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7FTF4Oz4dI

  • Anonymous

    Transmetropolitan should be required reading in every journalism class.

  • Attymix

    I’ll give you a few tips Damanoid.  Earth tones are very bad.  Don’t ever vote for a guy who wears earth tones.  Another thing, French is bad, everyone hates the French. I’m not sure why but you might as well go along with the crowd, all those people can’t be wrong can they?  Lastly, always vote for a guy who wears a lot of flag lapel pins.  This seems to be the way to go.  Just take William Henry Harrison for example, he never wore a flag pin and just think about what happened to him.

  • Anonymous

    By the Lords of Kobol, I know everything you’re referencing and remember it like a bad dream. Like a bunch of collective, civilization-wide nightmares. (See: ‘ground zero mosque’)

  • Anonymous

    This is probably the thing that annoys me most about this whole debacle. That a newspaper doesn’t know how to report news doesn’t exactly shock me; Fred Clark has written much on that very subject. The New York Times is well-known, but I hadn’t had much reason to respect their journalistic integrity in the past, simply due to lack of exposure. 

    But the first words in that column are “I’m looking for reader input”. The description helpfully provided of Brisbane’s job description is that he is the “readers’ representative”. The purpose of the article was not simply to discuss and debate two different philosophies a reporter can take in hir reporting. The purpose of the article was explicitly framed as a request for reader input. To elicit comment and conversation from the very people who will digest the NY Times’ newswriting, so that they can take this feedback and use it to better understand the needs and expectations of their readership. 

    So obviously, the comments on that piece were closed after six hours. I guess he’d had enough feedback from readers. And then his defensively-worded follow up, where he links to a couple of response pieces published by the Washington Post and the American Journalism Review as uncommon examples of considered, useful answers to his question, as well as a note from the executive editor. And then closed the comments on that one, too. I’m seriously raising an eyebrow at the idea that he’s actually interested in reader responses, when he’s been so quick to cut off avenues of feedback, and pointed specifically to other things written by professional writers in professional settings who agree with him* that this is an unresolved and ongoing issue.

    *This is actually false. Both posts come down pretty firmly on the side of being a real journalist and actually telling the public what it needs to know, although one is somewhat sympathetic to his confusion. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    The scary thing is, on the radio today, I just heard a clip from some ad castigating Romney for, among other sins against the Eternal Reagan, speaking French.  9_9

    The good news, it was an ad by another Republican.  I’ve been waiting 20-odd years to see this crowd turn their knives on each other, and I’m savoring the schadenfreude.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I really enjoyed the NYT comments section on the two articles. They really tore that guy a new one. I hope he doesn’t let the tone of the arguments detract from the message though. Readers don’t want stenographers, they want research and they want investigation. If your job can be replaced with an unattended microphone or a camcorder, you’re not doing it properly!

  • winters

    Yeah, I’m kind of nerdy and long winded. Sorry about that. ;)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    No sweat. :) Long-winded is not a bad thing around here (well, most times. :P )


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