Journalist Laments 'Declining Trust in the Media'

For Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons, the new film Resurrecting the Champ is an opportunity to feel sorry for how journalists are being treated these days:

I suppose I could just buck up and be a man about the new movie and forgive the filmmakers for their liberties with the truth.

That'd be a lot easier if we weren't living in a time of declining trust in the media and when some of our fellow citizens seem determined to convince the American public that the mainstream press is biased and unreliable.

Maybe they believe it; to me, their effort more closely resembles dangerous propaganda. They seem to think they're helping the republic by diminishing the mainstream press; to me, they're undercutting it.

The press has never claimed perfection, but it's still committed to covering the nation's agenda and getting things right. I know many people don't believe that, but if they disbelieve it enough, someday they'll be left with agenda-driven bloggers and empty-headed news coverage.

That's when the republic will begin to sag.

I admire a lot of journalists, but I think they have a blind spot with regard to the incompetence of many of their peers. Journalists don't get interviewed, so they rarely see how bad some reporters are at the fundamental task of gathering and reporting information -- especially in the broadcast media.

Unlike "agenda-driven bloggers," reporters don't scrutinize the media the way they cover government and other institutions. Because they don't, journalists have a much higher impression of their profession than everybody else.

If Parsons is worried about the future of journalism, he should spend less time lamenting and more time reporting. Telling people you're committed to getting things right is not as persuasive as getting things right.


Inversely, I think the bogosphere has an enormous blind-spot as to how extensively it's manipulated by propagandists and marketers, and how much mileage those interests get out of whipping up hatred for The Media. I'm also much less inclined to credit the "Be Perfect" solution, given how many times I've seen A-listers misconstrue or exaggerate any error, in order to have something to rant about and rile up their audience.

Have you been following, e.g. the story of the _Lancet_ study about excess deaths from war in Iraq? That was a scientific study done to about as well as could be done in the real world of trying to work in the middle of a civil war. And it didn't matter, in the sense that the attackers didn't care, and ranted regardless. Thus, being near-perfect really seems to matter very little, empirically. Oh, there's some benefit, a little. But it's not a solution.

Quoting the Lancet study is no way to validate your ridiculous argument. Are we to believe journalists are immune to manipulation or propaganda? You're really going out of your way to misunderstand Rogers' point.

The blogosphere is not a monolith, it's an organism. If journalists would willingly self-correct, we wouldn't be having this conversation, but instead of cleaning up their own messes, they make it easy for bloggers to tear big chunks out of the myth of journalistic objectivity by trying to divert attention from their mistakes.

Were I still a journalist I'd welcome the chance to get the story right, no matter who was contributing. Unwillingness to share in the process of getting it right may not necessarily indicate bad intent, but it sure as hell doesn't make journalists look like people who care about doing their jobs.

The last line of this post was immediately copied to my Collection of Quotes.



"Have you been following, e.g. the story of the _Lancet_ study about excess deaths from war in Iraq?"

Why, yes I have.

The real story is that a couple of openly ideologically-driven doctors did a really half-assed study, with very poor statistical control, which disagreed with every other study being done by a factor of at least ten. When called on it, they went into a classic defense mode, and won't let anyone look at their original work.

Here's one hint: One of the basic assumptions of the Lancet study was that more than 90% of all deaths in Iraq were unrecorded by official channels. That wouldn't be an issue, except their own study had a higher than 90% rate of recorded death certificates. So either 90%+ of deaths ARE recorded (and the official numbers are right), or the Lancet folks got one helluva lot of forged death certificates. Nobody can go back and check, though, because the doctors won't let them look at their work.

Their sampling techniques were either incredibly shoddy, or were manipulated by an "insider" in their survey crew. They lost randomness early on (and apparently let themselves get steered into non-random situations, as well as planning the study badly before they ever even started).

Some statisticians got hold of the study, too, and ripped it to shreds, partly because of he stuff mentioned above, but also for a LOT of other reasons.

This was all caught by the blogs, by the way - most news organizations reported the study with little or no analysis. And a huge number of people on the Left still pop up with that completely disproven study as a matter of faith.

Rogers, I rest my case.

It's just too easy to say "BE PERFECT", and preach and wag a figure. However, down that road, there's ultimately nothing but sanctimonious moralism. And I say this as someone who has suffered much by agenda-driven journalists. But the alternative is even worse :-(.

I'm not saying bloggers are better than journalists. I get as tired of blogger self-admiration as you do. But bloggers, by treating the media like any other entrenched institution worthy of public scrutiny, provide a useful service that's often lacking from mainstream journalism. I love watching journalists squirm under the heat of the magnifying glass.

" But bloggers, by treating the media like any other entrenched institution worthy of public scrutiny, ..."

I don't think this is an accurate description. It's more like
"But [BIG] bloggers, by treating the media [except themselves] as a target to demonize in order to gain an audience ..."

The journalists are often squirming for the wrong reasons, because *often* (not in every case sigh, but in some of the ones with the biggest audience), the critiquing blogger is an amoral political demagogue (present company excluded, of course, but the problem should be evident).

Well done, Seth. You've validated the very argument you tried to attack by trying to sweep away Chad Irby's takedown of your sad attempt at self-justification with a glib non-answer. Thanks for the help.

No one's saying be perfect. We're saying make an effort to get the story right, and don't react to attempts to help you do so by whining like a punk. Doing otherwise is not just morally and intellectually wrong, but cowardly and despicable.

Life's too short. It's not worth trying to teach the pig to sing. I'm attempting to convince Rogers. The rest of the commenters are beyond my skills.

[Rogers - again, see my point? This is the problem being referenced in the article you quote above - "their effort more closely resembles dangerous propaganda. ... they'll be left with agenda-driven bloggers and empty-headed news coverage"]

[Pre-emptive tedium - somewhere off in the blog-boondocks, they'll always be a few true experts shouting to the wind. But turning over the media even more to outright political partisans would be a net negative. CBS isn't NPR, it's also not Fox "News".]

So Seth can't defend his pathetic, dishonest position and must resort to name-calling. Douchebaggery confirmed.

As Chris Rock said, life isn't short. Life is long when you make the wrong decisions. Apparently Seth has a long, wrong and invincibly ignorant life ahead of him.

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