The contemptible media

The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof doesn’t like what he sees:

Since 1973, the National Opinion Research Center has measured public confidence in 13 institutions, including the press. All of the other institutions have generally retained a good measure of public respect, but confidence in the press has fallen sharply since 1990.

Those of us in the press tend to get defensive about our dwindling credibility. We protest that we’ve been made scapegoats by partisan demagogues, particularly on the right, and I think that’s true. But distrust for the news media, even if it’s unfair, is the new reality – and we will have to work much, much harder to win back our credibility with the public.

In any case, it’s not just right-wingers who distrust the media these days. The Pew Research Center found that while only 14 percent of Republicans believe all or most of what they read in The New York Times, even among Democrats the figure is only 31 percent. Other major news organizations face the same challenge. The Fox News Channel is considered credible by fewer than one-third of the Republicans – and an even smaller number of Democrats. Indeed, it’s a rare news organization that is trusted by more than one-third of the people in either party: the one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the news media are not trustworthy.

The main reason is that they’re not. The news media is largely a bunch of undereducated pseudointellectuals who regularly confuse having heard of something with expertise in it. Being educated in journalism instead of an actual discipline, they tend to have a very small smattering of general knowledge and no depth of knowledge in anything.

Internet technology is the curse of the legacy media in more ways than one, because the men and women behind the curtain are now so easily revealed as the intellectual frauds they have usually been.

For example, when concealed carry laws were first passed, the newspapers in Florida and later Texas predicted bloodbaths soon to follow. But the significant fact was not that these newspapers were completely wrong, (although they were), but that newspapers in Minnesota and other states REPEATED EXACTLY THE SAME INACCURATE PREDICTIONS when similar carry laws were being debated ten years later. The same thing applies for the inability to recognize the farce of static revenue models when reporting on the expected impact of changes in tax rates.

It used to take a good memory and a newspaper addiction to notice this sort of thing. Now, even a casual news junkie may well read ten or twelve different papers online by the time he finishes his morning coffee, and should he notice something suspicious, he can check it out in seconds.

The blog phenomenon has merely magnified this new ability of the public to fact-check newspapers and other media, and since many journalists know very little about anything specific, it’s no surprise that their fraudulent credibility has finally been exploded.