Woe Is Media, Pt. 973


The Christian Science Monitor just printed an article that opens with this line:

The past year has been the most miserable in the history of modern American journalism.

Maybe it has something to do with hyperbolic nonsense masquerading as facts! (Later, we learn that newspapers have recently had "their credibility battered as never before"). This decline, of course, is annual (why, it was just 1999 when David Halberstam informed us, with great sadness, that "The past year has been ? the worst year for American journalism since I entered the profession forty-four years ago"). In actuality, the cost of publishing continues to plummet, new publications (even daily newspapers!) are being launched every day, and the free press is spreading like a virus in closed societies like Iran. Time was, media critics (most famously, A.J. Liebling) believed that journalism's health and proliferation were inextricably linked. (Link via Jeff Jarvis)

NEXT: Merry Pranksters

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  1. A good year for journalism, a bad year for the journalism guild. Which is to say, all in all, a bang-up year for journalism.

  2. “Guild”?
    I thought they were a priesthood.

  3. Journalism is not dead. It just smells funny.

  4. “And just one newspaper has adopted an intensive fact-checking system, long a staple at national magazines.

    Some editors fear they’ll obliterate the spirit of teamwork and trust in newsrooms if they go too far”

    Those two paragraphs really reveal what an amateurish seat-of-the-pants affair most big league journalism is compared to other major institutions or professions.

    I think the real problem with modern journalism is that the complexity of the stories that they must cover swamps the farm league level of organization that they still use.

  5. Since when did the CSM hire Frank Deford?


  7. “Guild”?
    I thought they were a priesthood.

    Actually, that is the better word; otherwise people might think I’m talking about union…

  8. Shannon,
    I think you are correct that much of the problem is the complexity of the stories. When I read a story on a subject of which I have a decent amount of knowledge, I am amazed at the number of errors. It makes me wonder how many of the great majority of stories on subjects of which I know little or nothing are full of errors, too. I realize that reporters cannot be experts on wide range of technolgies, cultures, etc., and it isn’t always easy to determine who the credible experts are. That is especially true on the most controversial (and therefore newsworthy) topics.

    My experience of coverage of happenings at which I was present has been a mixed bag. I was walking in downtown New Orleans one day and traffic was stopped for a Presidential (WJC) motorcade. I was standing near a couple of Times-Picayune reporters. The next day’s paper had a verbatim account of what people around us were saying.

    On another occassion, I witnessed a man shooting himself in a parking lot. When the police arrived, they knew who he was and the gun was lying next to his hand as he was sprawled in the parking lot. I told the police that I had witnessed the suicide. The next day’s paper said an unidentified man had been found shot in a car and the police were still looking for witnesses and a suspect two hours later. When I called the newspaper to explain that their story was full of errors, the response was “Well, that is what the police department told us.”

  9. Screw ’em. The last time I bought a newspaper was when I needed some packing material for some stuff I was shipping. I find I’m much more well-informed scanning various blogs and websites throughout the week than I ever was when I subscribed to newspapers and magazines.

  10. The rise of blogs and other intermediaries between mainstream journalism and readers is a very healthy development – Television and print journalism has always been a lot flakier and error-prone than we’d hope for, but until recently there was no real pressure on them to do a better job.

    Now their flaws are being exposed – and corrected. Ultimately, journalism will be much healthier because of it.

    But this is an election year. Expect a lot of crap in the media until November, then there will be more time for introspection and reform when the stakes aren’t as high.

  11. Yeah, ok, I know I should subscribe to Reason. I did for quite a few years. I’ll beg poverty at this point, ok?

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