Monday, August 16, 2004

A crisis in the fourth estate

First The Scotsman editorial, now Jürgen Krönig, the UK editor of Die Zeit writing in the Guardian - "A crisis in the fourth estate"
Papers don't "report" news, they quite often present it according to their preferences and prejudices. The growth of columnists has led to the birth of a "Commentariat". It contains a few excellent and analytical minds, but all too often reasonable, balanced voices are drowned out by journalists who seem untainted by facts or deeper knowledge but replace this with gleefully presented prejudices.

It would be easy to quip that he must have attended the UNITY minority journalist conference as well. But it is too early to leap to the conclusion that newpapers are beginning to be seriously worried about the direction they have chosen. They seem to be worried, however. On Sunday, the Guardian's Peter Preston (in America) wrote of "The final days of the Watergate myth" hints at a disaffection with post-Watergate journalism.

They may be just shots across the bow or weariness at following the leader, mindlessly and self-destructively tagging along behind the New York Times and Washington Post. It was o.k. while the Times and WashPo were minimally respectable, but there are widening cracks in their credibility that other papers can't have failed to notice. Recently the Globe and Mail seemed almost puzzled when the Times and WashPo issued mea culpas on pre-war coverage.
The article immediately became the focus of discussion among U.S. journalists, since the Post's coverage of the Bush administration's case for war had not been widely perceived as especially weak.

Editor & Publisher, too, seemed unsure of what the WashPo intended. They went so far as to highlight some WashPo reader feedback on the topic.

This slight rebellion (see San Diego Union-Tribune editorial as well) could be that some papers surf the web more. Or, after the recent terrorism alert-as-politics stories that quickly lost believablity, they are being more cautious. But something has clearly changed.

UPDATE: alternate NY Press Taibbi is also puzzled. "A curious piece of writing." Nothing puzzling about Taibbi response. He's Left, he's rabid, he's furious with WashPo.

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