Media Criticism

MEDIA CRITICISM….The relentless barrage of partisan media criticism in the blogosphere has long left me uneasy. Dana Milbank explains why today:

Partisans on the left and right have formed cottage industries devoted to discrediting what they dismissively call the “mainstream media” — the networks, daily newspapers and newsmagazines. Their goal: to steer readers and viewers toward ideologically driven outlets that will confirm their own views and protect them from disagreeable facts. In an increasingly fragmented media world, ideologues have already devolved into parallel universes, in which liberals and conservatives can select talk radio hosts, cable news pundits and blogs that share their prejudices.

….Ultimately, it’s not good for anybody, even partisans, to get into a postmodern morass where there are no such things as facts, only competing perceptions of reality. Would liberals really favor the absence of a press that calls into questions the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq’s weapons and ties to al Qaeda? Would conservatives really favor the absence of a press that brought the Clinton scandals to light?

Actually, media bashing is still primarily a right wing phenomenon, but I think Milbank is right that it’s slowly creeping into the left’s foundational mythology as well. If this continues, the eventual result will be an almost universal ability to ignore any news report you don’t like simply by claiming it’s the result of bias and therefore not to be trusted. This is unhealthy.

On the other hand, it’s pretty hard not to be skeptical when a recent survey of reporters indicates that a fair number of them are skeptical too:

15% said that on one or more occasions their organizations edited material for publication and they did not believe the final version accurately represented the story.

I continue to believe that on a list of problems with the American media, ideological bias barely cracks the top ten. And perhaps 15% isn’t really that much. Still, if reporters don’t trust their own bosses, how can they expect us to?