June 7, 2020

Fact Check Op-eds

Margaret Sullivan asks what journalists are supposed to be today. As an answer, she offers another question: “What journalism best serves the real interests of American citizens?”

I’m going to briefly re-visit one of my earlier answers to this question specifically regarding opinion journalism and op-eds because I think it is especially important right now:

Fact check opinion journalism from your columnists, to your pundits, to your politicians, to your citizens’ letters to the editor. Publish nothing in an editorial section that has a factual error.

I’m unconcerned about the The New York Times having published an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton. I find his opinion odious and authoritarian. I suspect your average Times reader finds it so. But that doesn’t mean the Times shouldn’t publish it. What the Times, and every other newspaper, should be doing is fact-checking every submission and turn back anything with factual errors for edit and re-submit.

The Times just let Cotton have his say. And it was later found to be wanting in the facts department.

Cotton has every right to believe that troops should be used to stop the “rioters.” But that doesn’t mean newspapers should give him, or anyone else, a pass on facts.

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