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Think Like a Libel Lawyer
March 9, 2019 | The New York Times | By David McCraw, deputy general counsel of The New York Times.

It's the best way to keep an open mind in our “pick your side and stay on it” era.

My job, when I am doing it right, is to please no one. I’m a press lawyer. I’m paid by this newspaper to vet stories before publication.

Think of me as a story’s first and worst reader: doubtful, questioning, blind to subtlety, skeptical of the facts, regularly prodding editors and reporters to do something more or different. And if I have done my job well, many of the subjects of those same stories will be unhappy as well, but for all the reasons we want them to be: We got it right.

The basic idea of libel law is simple. A publisher can get sued for making a factual statement that proves to be false and hurts a person’s reputation.......I am all about the villains in many pieces — the doctor who botched the surgery, the insurance company that shafted its customers, the professor who hit on the student, the greedy industrialist who ground up workers to make a fortune. I try to look for the counternarrative that they could (and their lawyers will) build from the same set of facts. It’s a counterintuitive form of reading. It’s looking for the innocent explanation or the possibility that what appears to all the rest of the world to be nefarious may in fact just be a mistake made in good faith. It’s a tricky skill to take into the real world....for a libel lawyer, a little sympathy for the villain is almost an occupational requirement. And maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for all of us in the tribalized “pick your side and stay on it” era we are living in......Libel lawyers don’t serve as the fairness police. If anything, they are more like fact cops. Coverage can be wildly unfair and still be true. .....Over the past half-decade, The Times and others had reoriented themselves to reader-centered journalism. The shift in attitude has been like opening a window after a long winter. Journalism should be done as if the readers mattered.

But in a divided America there was a risk, too — the risk that we would set our compass by what people wanted rather than giving them the journalism they needed.......It was discouraging that so many people apparently believed that the time-honored journalistic act of telling a story straight had become a problem and that The Times needed instead to take sides and coach readers on what to think.

Journalism is hard when people feel the failure to take sides is in and of itself a surrender....The great risk we face comes not in giving them (the alt-right) voice but in taking their worst instincts and making them our own.

The First Amendment gives a lot of protection to even nasty speakers.....we write about people in the news, not just the people we agree with.....that is how the First Amendment works — thanks to our “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open,......Speakers are allowed to be provocative, colorful, contradictory and wrong.

counternarratives  counterintuitive  dark_side  facts  First_Amendment  free-press  journalism  lawyers  libel  NYT  open_mind  skepticism 
6 weeks ago by jerryking
You Do Not Need Blockchain: Eight Popular Use Cases And Why They Do Not Work
Note: I am talking about proof of authorship only, as the concept of intellectual property is nonsense in my opinion: ‘Against Intellectual Property’ by Stephan Kinsella.
blockchain  skepticism 
8 weeks ago by kristjansson
Skeptics Set a Trap and a So-Called “Celebrity Medium” Fell for the Hoax
Susan Gerbic is a skeptical activist who frequently works to expose paranormal nonsense, and she just wrote a lengthy article about a brilliant “sting.” In this…
skepticism  psychic  from instapaper
8 weeks ago by jtyost2

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