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Access Journalism

Hunter has a few things to say about the declining credibility of elite media.  The entire thing is well worth a read, but this jumped out at me:

I have never (and I do mean, never) gotten the impression that anyone among the upper echelons of the press understands just how badly their long-term credibility has been damaged by their uncritical kowtowing to administration propaganda when it comes to the Iraq War. I've never gotten the impression that they comprehend just how much their brand credibility was torn to ribbons, and how to this day there are large segments of the population — the segments of the population that tend to pay the most attention to issues and news events, not coincidentally — who remember quite well all the things the editorialists of the press were wrong about, and continue to be wrong about, and manage to make themselves quite insufferably wrong about, and that there simply is no patience, or marketplace, for these same voices again. Just as events in Iraq have impacted our military for the next two decades, so too will future editorializing about future national security debates be impacted by the abandonment of principles evinced by media behavior in the Iraq War.

I think there is some confusion between the collateral damage that traditonal media are constantly suffering at the hands of the right and what is happening now.  The drone of the Wurlitzer constantly telling low information types who probably aren't deep connoiseurs of news anyway that you just can't trust the media is of course omnipresent, but that's somewhat distinct from the pervasive damage done to the esteem with which traditional media is increasingly held in the eyes of opinion makers.  Those who are paying attention, those who influence friends and co-workers, those who are most likely to be asked "so, what do you think about that?" are, I think, increasingly disgusted by the unrepentant hackery of Judith Miller or Steno Sue Schmidt, or Fred Hiatt's tourettes-like compulsion to  blather nonsense uncontrollably.  That kind of damage is deep and pervasive and whether traditional media is oblivious or in denial I cannot say, but I do not get the sense that they are even close to coming to terms with it.

If you didn't get a chance please read Emptywheel's fine piece last night on Max Frankel's visit to the Libby trial, wherein he takes a moment to blow Bob Bennett.   And yes, it was just that disgusting.  She said at the time that what Frankel really needed to do in his piece was come to terms with the horrible, unacknowledged travesty that was Miller's Iraq reporting (as well as the sordid situations into which it led Miller), that it was the only way to start to salvage the Times' dignity and reputation.  Of course we know that's not going to happen, not in the pages of the Times itself anyway; they have way too much invested in the farce they continue to play out with regard to this story.  Which is a shame, because the credibility of much good reporting and insight elsewhere offered up by the Times suffers with that anvil proverbially tied to its neck.

As Atrios noted this morning, revenues are down all around in the newspaper business.  That's a bad thing.  Good reporting is essential to the democratic process.  Part of that is probably due to the awkward transition many papers will make online, but I think he is right in his assessment that not all of it can be attributable to shifting technology.  Dan Rather recently described it as a "go along, get along" attitude that access journalism has nurtured, and it is both toxic to the demands of a modern audience as well as antithetical to the nature of what true journalism is.  (And BTW, I think Rather does get it.  I interviewed him at SXSW and I think he is very much aware that the profession is in crisis.)

It would be a boon to all of us if everyone else would clue into this fact sooner rather than later. 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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