Get This Boy A Bib. He Needs His Mama.


Yeah, that's David Broder in Sunday's Wash Post, auditioning for a lead in Grumpy Old Men III or, as this post's title suggests, going beserk like a discombobulated robot from Westworld.

The object of Broder's rage? All the arrayed forces of madness (read: profits, da Internet) that have driven real journalists (read: hacks such as Dan Rather and Howell Raines) to sucking even worse than the fake journalists they are desperately trying to imitate. Got that? if not, have another drink and read on, McDuff:

My suspicion is that it [the terrifying expulsion from the Broderian Eden of good, clean, decent people doing good, clean, decent journalism] stems from a widespread loss of confidence in both the values of journalism and the economic viability of the news business….

When the Internet opened the door to scores of "journalists" who had no allegiance at all to the skeptical and self-disciplined ethic of professional news gathering, the bars were already down in many old-line media organizations. That is how it happened that old pros such as Dan Rather and former New York Times editor Howell Raines got caught up in this fevered atmosphere and let their standards slip.

Here's a bonus Melvillean moan: "We've wandered a long way from safe ground in the news business. Sometimes I wonder if we can find our way back." "O Bartleby! O Humanity." Whole spiel here.

A few quick points: Despite the flurry of exposed journalistic fakes (a decade-long flurry, if one throws in the usual suspects, including Ruth Shalit, Stephen Glass, Mike Barnicle, blah blah blah, along with Jayson Blair, the USA Today guy, the recent Rather boo boo, etc.), there's little reason to believe that mainstream journalism is any more corrupt than it ever was. Indeed, the only thing that has probably changed is that it's easier to get caught, which should be a good thing in anybody's book.

I don't think bloggers or other "Internet" journalists are a replacement for mainstream media; rather, they function as a supplement and, often, a corrective. When Broder writes, "Journalists learn to be skeptical—of sources and of their own biases as well. If they are any good, they are tough on themselves," he's not simply mouthing empty platitudes (Hey Dave, we called your mother and guess what, she doesn't love you). He's ignoring precisely how Web-based brats have forced "real" journalists to confront their biases. That's what happened with the Trent Lott affair. Mainstream journalists found it completely unremarkable that the Mississippi senator indulged in a Confederate counterfactual because that kind of shit goes on all the time. It wasn't beauty that killed that beast (or at least forced his resignation as Senate majority leader). It was bloggers.

Broder is also missing a major but little-understood point about media in an age of proliferation: Media doesn't simply functin as a news or info source anymore, but as an affiliative community in some ways analogous to a sports team, alumni association, or social club. This isn't new–people have always read mags like Reason, The Nation, and National Review (or consumed radio and TV channels like PBS and NPR) to participate in imagined communities of like-minded folks. What's different now is that you can do that much more easily and efficiently now on the Web–witness, Swift Boat Vets, or even more relevant, sites such as Free Republic or The point of much of that sort of activity isn't delivering or even discussing news per se; it's to create a sense of solidarity and affinity.

One final point (if it is one): Based on the number of outlets, the range of perspectives, the ease of access, you name it, this is the best damn time for journalism ever. Which isn't to say its perfect. But it is a pretty crappy time to be a well-placed columnist, or editor, or publisher desperate to dictate the news cycle, what people are reading, and what people "should" be thinking.

NEXT: "Fire up the jet baby, we're going to El Paso!!"

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  1. Some of my best friends are Morman so I must recuse my elderly blubbering self.

  2. It’s a well-known fact that Broder writes his Sunday column on Wednesdays, the same night he and Helen Thomas routinely get hopped up on coke, ecstasy and heroin while dancing to “Night and Day” over and over and over again on the Victrola. This explains the despairing tone.

  3. And I suspect that if the situation had been (say) Fox News pushing obviously bogus memos about Kerry’s military record, and they had been torn apart within a day of the broadcast by lefty webloggers, that Broder & Co. would be hailing the new wave of citizen journalists, the service to democracy, the empowerment brought by technology, etc., etc.

  4. err, you oughtta at least maintain the journalistic standard of looking up the USA Today guy’s name so you can help him go down in infamy

  5. Journawhastic whatard?

  6. I’d just like to say that I had to wade through a lot of garbage to get to your point, Mr. Gillespie, and I don’t appreciate it.

    Most internet journalists have as much a social relationship to their readers as a journalistic one; and along with that comes the prevalence among them of a particular (social) rhetorical device – wrapping the argument up in a lot of cool affectations. Internet journalists love zingers, and they love to have attitude. In this respect at least, it seems to me that internet journalism has infected traditional journalism with this desire. (Note that I’m not arguing for Broder’s stupid claim.)

    Granted this is ‘Hit and Run’, so what follows hardly applies here, but I feel a need to vent.

    To all journalists: I don’t you dare try to entertain me. I don’t want to like you. I want you to be considerate enought to make your point as clearly and succinctly as possible.

  7. Broder hasn’t written anything worth reading for years. It makes me wonder if he has some damning info on his boss.

  8. Broder has been boring the living piss out of anyone who makes the mistake of reading his columns for years now. I find that it helps, after reading a Broder column, to engage in some sort of stimulating activity to restore blood flow to the brain– say, something like eating pineapple jello, maybe.

  9. Skepticism…skepticism….he wants skeptcism! Where the hell has he been reading. Perhaps the largest collection of skeptics I’ve ever heard from are right here in the blogosphere. I believe that you will find better writing, more cogent opinionating and clearer rationals for positions here than the good Mr. Broder has produced in many years (if he’s ever produced anything worth reading). Denigrate us at your own peril Mr. Broder. You could be the next Dan Rather.

  10. Nick, are you challenging Matt Welch for the title of King of Long Posts About the Media?

    When I had to keep scrolling down, I figured it had to be a Matt post.

  11. Why no mention of yesterday’s New York Times Magazine story about bloggers,(featuring Wonkette on the cover). To read it you’d think that there were only two or three conservatives in the whole bloggesphere, and not a single libertarian.

  12. Pardon the suckup, but posts like Gillespie’s keep me coming back to this website.

  13. Nick

    Come on, man, that could’ve been a column with a full on title. I thought that the point was to HIt Me and Run, not scroll, like, three times.

  14. If there is really a breakdown in the overall integrity of the news industry – the article claims an a priori integrity that hit some kind of Golden Era long before my parents were born – then let it melt the rest of the way and good riddance to it. I long for the days when the standard outfits (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, you name it) are largely irrelevant, mere starting points for engaged and active consumers to seek out details from numerous sources instead of wasting their lives drooling through endless commercials during mindless cop/legal dramas.

    Yes, it would also take a far more active blog world, and a better surfing model, but all in good time. And it would ultimately be worth it, because whether you put your trust in Jayson Blair or his editor, now or 50 years ago or next week, you’re risking the same thing; nothing about Broder’s fantasies of the good old days imply that the industry is credible or trustworthy, only that there was a more rigid heirarchy.

  15. Skeptical? SKEPTICAL? WTF?

    Those stenographers? Those practitioners of “he said” journalism? Those loyal purchasers of hair-care products and indefatigable standers in front of buildings? Skeptical?!!!


  16. I think he was talking about the Eward Murrow/Walter Conkrite days, Kevin.

  17. I happen to really enjoy mindless cop/legal
    dramas. And I only drool a little.

  18. Teams of aggressive bloggers will always approximate the truth better than any single individual. It’s Open-Source News and it’s here to stay.

  19. I’ve always agreed with Bill Sherman re: reporters (or “journalists, as they’re now called, though few of them keep journals)

    “If I had every one of those SOB’s taken out and shot, I am convinced we’d have news from hell for breakfast.”

  20. David Broder makes simplistic generalizations about how alternate media outlets represent unethical journalism. Isn’t it unethical for David Broder himself to make a common fallacy in reasoning of sweeping generalization?

    Personally, I would rather (no pun intended) read this article from Greg Palast rather than David Broder’s sanctimonious canard.

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