Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When a newpaper's credibility is lost, that paper is lost

Powerline links to William Katz on the deaths of modern newspapers:
A newspaper's most precious possession is its credibility. When that is lost, all is lost. Newspapers have been losing their credibility for decades, and, remarkably, many journalists don't seem to care. [...] Many of these writers did not go into journalism simply to report the news. They came in to "make a difference," or to influence public opinion. They saw the world, not as something to be observed and heard, but as a series of intellectual challenges. There was a "truth" higher than the events they saw before them, and, they came to believe, they had special insight into that truth.

They told us that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable. They announced that urban crime was merely a "socio-economic phenomenon." They informed us that Ronald Reagan was a warmed-over movie actor fed lines by his handlers. Recalling Vietnam, they announced that the Iraq war, too, was unwinnable. And, more recently, they assured us that only one of two presidential candidates was worthy of the office, even though the other had a long and respected career in public service. And they were wrong on all these things, and their readers came to realize it. And their readers came to see that these "higher truths" were being presented on the first page, in the form of news stories.

Our most prestigious newspapers developed an aloofness from the public, and an aloofness from hard facts. When you conclude that you have the answers to every question, the only facts you need are the ones between your ears.

Phil Bronstein, editor at large of the San Francisco Chronicle, said of the current decline of newspapers, "Most of the wounds are self-inflicted." He explained that "the public was seen as kind of messy and icky and not something you needed to get involved with." Precisely. [...]

A number of newspapers also embraced what has come to be known as political correctness. This is an elegant term for what was once called "the party line" - a way of looking at things in which facts are manipulated, or left out entirely, to present the image that the journalist wants you to believe.

Just days ago, police in Washington, D.C. announced that they had solved the 2001 murder of intern Chandra Levy. Yet, our most "respected" papers refused to tell their readers that the alleged killer is an illegal immigrant. Here is a man charged with a heinous crime. Any past illegality is clearly relevant to the story, yet it was excluded, and the public kept ignorant of the facts, in a bow to political correctness. Is it any wonder that many readers have lost confidence in the press?


At one time it was clear that the American press was the best in the world, specifically because it refused to yield to the ideological contortions of European-style journalism. In recent decades that distinction has faded, and the verdict of readers is now being rendered.
Time Magazine:
The Ten Most Endangered Newspapers in America
9. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is another big daily that competes with a larger paper in a neighboring market — in this case, Dallas. The parent of the Dallas Morning News, Belo, is probably a stronger company than the Star-Telegram's parent, McClatchy. The Morning News has a circulation of about 350,000, while the Star-Telegram has just over 200,000. The Star-Telegramwill have to shut down or become an edition of its rival. Putting them together would save tens of millions of dollars a year.

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