No, this absurd piece is not (intentional) satire. But the “headline could just as well be found at the Onion,” as one of the many exasperated New York Times readers puts it.
Obviously any paper, but most especially the New York Times, has little value to society if it knowingly prints lies — or if it fails to do the minimal investigative reporting and fact-checking needed to determine if a statement by a newsmaker or, say, a global warming denier, is false.
The public editor is “the readers’ representative,” which is to say he has no power whatsoever except the public platform to shame the paper of record. That in theory makes him the “conscience” of the paper, but by not clearly stating the obvious here he has mostly provided cover for journalists to continue doing the lousy job they are doing.
This is not an abstract question. We’ve seen the media described as “stenographers” by one of the country’s leading journalists in a major Harvard study — see How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics — “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has harshly slammed his fawning, stenographic colleagues in his piece, “Rotten to the press corps”:
[Fired Issa press aide Kurt] Bardella also disclosed contempt for reporters he described as “lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity.”
The issue of reporters simply repeating what they have heard with little or no fact checking is one of many flaws that go to the heart of the demise of modern journalism, of which climate coverage is but the most important subset. There is a related flaw of getting that quote from a global warming denier to provide balance in a story when the reporter or their editor should know that the denier is a widely debunked purveyor of falsehoods, something that still happens at the Times (see below).
And the issue comes up with respect to columnists — see “The Washington Post, abandoning any journalistic standards, lets George Will publish a third time global warming lies debunked on its own pages.”
Now that would be an interesting topic for Brisbane — should the NY Times fact-check its opinion pieces? Right now, like most other newspapers, it publishes the most absurd, error riddled nonsense that would hardly withstand even a few minutes of fact-checking online — see, for instance, “Small IS Beautiful”! Robert Bryce Pushes Nuclear Power by Quoting Famous Author Who Called It “an Ethical, Spiritual, and Metaphysical Monstrosity”
Brisbane tries to explain his original column as poor word choice in his weak follow-up, “Update to my Previous Post on Truth Vigilantes“: