Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Marty Kaplan has a good HuffPo post:

It's possible that once upon a time, American newspaper readers really did understand that reporters are different from editorial writers, who are different from the paper's columnists, who are different from the syndicated columnists they run, who are different from the op-ed writers they carry.

If ever that were true, that day has passed. It's partly a function of a lack of readership understanding. But it's also a consequence of Fox News, The Washington Times, the Manchester Union-Leader and other outlets whose cheering for their team has broken down the news/editorial wall. It's a consequence of journalism become a profit center in big media conglomerates, which means that decisions about what to cover and how to invest journalistic resources are driven by entertainment values, not by news values. It's a consequence of relentless pressure from conservatives, which has pulled what used to be the center way over to the right, and which has made editors and producers scared of their own shadow. It's a consequence of brazen government propaganda, from a Republican White House and a Republican Congress, which is so breathtaking in its Orwellian disinformation that none dare call it Stalinist, and which is so vindictive and pugnacious in its push-back that none dare call it McCarthyite (except, of course, as flattery).

It's something I've written about many times, but if editors and journalists are upset because the walls between punditry and reporting, between fair journalism and hackery, have been eroded and news consumers are confused they have no one to blame but themselves. Every week, if not every day, journalists appear on roundtable shows with pundits and partisan hacks, usually but not always conservative. Every day "reporters" go blabbing on Imus and Tweety (MSNBC is the worst offender for this for some reason), clearly stepping outside any clear boundaries between reporting and opining or speculating.

I have mixed feelings about the American model of "balanced" journalism, but whatever its merits or lack of its integrity has largely been destroyed from within, as journalists willingly walk hand in hand with pundits, when lazy "he said she said" journalism is justified by that model, and when increasingly reality itself must be distorted to provide "balance" when the facts themselves are biased.