‘Truth Vigilante’ Arthur Brisbane Looks Back

Photo credit: The New York Times

Now that Arthur Brisbane is no longer holding The New York Times accountable as the public editor, he is publicly looking back at his two year tenure at the paper of record. Mr. Brisbane served as the fourth ombudsman — the readers’ representative — a position created in the wake of the 2003 Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal.

In an interview with Craig Silverman at Poynter two days after his time at the Times came to an end, Mr. Brisbane spoke about his experience.

“I’m trying to decompress,” Mr. Brisbane told  “Yesterday and today are the first two working days that I haven’t had to worry about the e-mail queue and what’s coming in and what’s in the paper, and you know what? I am enjoying it.”

Mr. Brisbane expects to be remembered for his “infamous” truth vigilante post, where Mr. Brisbane questioned whether it’s a reporter’s job to challenge statements presented as facts by sources rather than just reporting it – especially by politicians during an election season. The post got a lot of attention, which came as a bit of a surprise to Mr. Brisbane.

“For better or worse, it’s probably the goddamn fact checking thing,” he said. 

Mr. Brisbane will also be remembered for the stir he caused on his way out, where he essentially accused the Times of having a liberal bias in his final column. “Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times,” he wrote in his good-bye post.

In his final post, Mr. Brisbane also noted the healthy egos at the paper and the similarities to Garrison Keillor’s fictional town. “As for humility, well, The Times is Lake Wobegon on steroids (everybody’s way above average).”

Although Mr. Brisbane blogged and tweeted in his official capacity, he said he had a largely apprehensive relationship with social media.

“It’s an alien realm for me,” he said. “I didn’t dive into it whole hog, as pretty much everybody who is a media commentator has observed. I understand that my successor is going to do that more in-depth, and I wish her best.”

What’s next?

“There are people who publish blogs that I think have every bit the same deliberative, thoughtful quality that the traditional print medium tend to establish. So it can be done very well, but it’s probably not something that I’m going to do. Whatever I do create, I am going to try to move beyond the frame of daily journalism,” said Mr. Brisbane.

‘Truth Vigilante’ Arthur Brisbane Looks Back