The New York Times is making regular use of the word “lie” in their headlines about President Trump. It started with the “birther lie,” then in January it was the “election lie,” and now it’s the “Comey lie.” Is the media crying wolf or perhaps carelessly exposing their bias?
If you replace the word “lie” with “falsehood,” the headlines don’t seem as subjective. If they can prove it, they can print it, and I think the Times should call it what their research proves it is, which is, in the case of the birther claim, a false statement. They don’t know it’s a lie because they don’t know his intent.
“Lie” should be saved for special circumstances. It could be justified for when Bill Clinton told a lie. If they had proof that Trump knew he was giving false statements, then the word would be appropriate. I think the headline crossed an objective line, however, I can see why the editors chose the wording; Trump uses hyperbolic language, and he gets a lot of attention for what he says. Perhaps the editor knew what he was doing when he crossed these lines of objectivity. He may have thought he had to start speaking Trump’s language if he wanted to be heard the way he is. This was likely a strategic decision on the editor’s behalf, but I still would have saved it for the opinion page.
Each time they use the word, it chips away at their credibility and objectivity. If it’s true journalism, they don’t need to take a political stance in their headlines.
They faced competing duties: a concerned citizen and an objective journalist. If the writers stayed true to their duty as objective journalists, they wouldn’t have used the word.