In an exit interview with Poynter now that he's out of the public editor role at The New York Times, Arthur Brisbane sounds like he's still upset about the public blowback he received after he wondered in a blog post, "Should The Times be a Truth Vigilante?" He intended for the piece to start a conversation, asking readers for "input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge 'facts' that are asserted by newsmakers they write about." The overwhelming response was along the lines of "yes, why would you even ask that?"
Calling the incident "the goddamn fact checking thing," Brisbane seems to think that the reader reaction was unfair and seems dismissive of the social media that made hay of it after the post was published:
“Understanding the underlying reasons why the response was so strong is not one of my strong points,” he said. ”I have a theory on it, but I’m not entirely sure. I think the headline is provocative. ‘Truth Vigilante’ is a provocative phrase, but frankly when I wrote the headline, you know, I was doing what a lot of headline writers do: capture the idea, get the reader’s attention. And it was a catchy phrase. I still think that people read the phrase in multiple ways; it’s one of these things you look at, it’s like a Rorschach … people see different things in that phrase.”
Brisbane also told Silverman he didn't see the public editor's job as facilitating a "conversation" about The Times coverage, but rather as a reporter covering it. "I preferred the paradigm that says there’s an article, there’s a complaint, and there’s a point of view that I’m going to arrive at and express, and that is the process." That's pretty different from the way The Times described the job when it announced it had hired Margaret Sullivan to take over the post. Their press release said she would act "as the initiator, orchestrator and moderator of an ongoing conversation about The Times’s journalism." Brisbane told Silverman he planned to decompress for a while now that he's off the job.
[Photo via The New York Times]