Sunday, October 31, 2004

Wayward press

Over at Gobbergo, Nick's post on lies and damned lies is a good one. (See I'm afraid I can't help it / I'm afraid I can.)

I don't follow as he does, but I've seen the phenomenon he discusses. Here, for example, is David Border's article on failure of the press, which reminds us (doesn't it?) of AJ Liebling's "Wayward Press" columns in the old New Yorker.

The Media, Losing Their Way

By David S. Broder
Sunday, September 26, 2004; Page B07


We don't yet know who will win the 2004 election, but we know who has lost it. The American news media have been clobbered.

In a year when war in Iraq, the threat of terrorism and looming problems with the federal budget and the nation's health care system cry out for serious debate, the news organizations on which people should be able to depend have been diverted into chasing sham events...

After almost a half-century in this business, I certainly feel a sense of shame and embarrassment at our performance. ...

The common feature -- and the disturbing fact -- is that none of these damaging failures would have occurred had senior journalists not been blind to the fact that the standards in their organizations were being fatally compromised...

The way to the top of journalism [is] no longer to test yourself on police beats and city hall assignments, under the skeptical gaze of editors who demanded precision in writing and careful weighing of evidence. It [is] to make a reputation as a clever wordsmith, a feisty advocate, a belligerent or beguiling political personality, and then market yourself to the media.

[Nonetheless] the fickle public -- whose wishes editors now [take] as their command -- [have] switched to even more sensational outlets: the cable talk shows and infotainment formats that put argument, gossip and amusement at the top....

We've wandered a long way from safe ground in the news business. Sometimes I wonder if we can find our way back.

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