Input needed: HOW could a news site be a truth vigilante?

I’ve been following, with interest, the recent flap sparked by this Jan. 12 column by New York Times public editor (ombudsman), Arthur Brisbane: Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

Brisbane asked NYT readers: “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 led to consternation from many Times readers, who believed this kind of revelation is part of the basic job of any news organization. GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram offered a good roundup of the flap, and at The Guardian Clay Shirky wrote an eloquent deeper exploration of the mindset disconnect between the Times and its readers.

Many people are debating the ethical implications of this issue. However, I’m wondering about the practicalities and possible opportunities.

If the NYT (or any news organization) does decide to point out when sources offer inaccurate “facts,” HOW might they accomplish that? Might there be good options, especially online, that could serve this purpose in addition to inserting relevant text into stories?…

I’m wondering about tools that might visually or otherwise flag to a web reader when a factual assertion has caveats — such as it’s probably not true, or could be stretching the point, or is a conflation, or lack corroboration or sourcing, etc.

It just seems to me that especially in digital media we might be able to do with some of the nuances of gradations of truth in ways that go beyond mere words on a page.

Your thoughts? Please comment below or e-mail me. Offer examples of potential strategies or tools, if you know of any. I plan to use this information in a post to the Knight Digital Media Center site, so expect to be quoted.


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