More than the economy has melted down. What remains of big media credibility has also liquefied and won't recover anytime soon, if it ever does.
Don't take my word for it. The ombudsman for The Washington Post acknowledges that conservatives have a point when they claim an imbalance in coverage of Barack Obama and John McCain.
In her Nov. 2 column, Deborah Howell writes, "...it's true that The Post, as well as much of the national news media, has written more stories and more favorable stories about Barack Obama than John McCain. Editors have their reasons for this, but conservatives are right that they often don't see their views reflected enough in the news pages."
What might be "their reasons"? There is only one answer: Too many journalists have been in the tank for Obama and wanted to see him elected president. Some Postreporters (Howell doesn't say how many) "complained to me that suggestions for issues coverage have been turned aside" in favor of horse-race coverage, despite reader complaints about too much coverage of the race itself and not enough of the candidates' positions on the issues.
Journalism is the only profession I know that ignores the wishes of its consumers. If a department store found that most of its customers preferred over-the-calf socks to ankle-length socks, would that store ignore customer preferences for the longer socks because the president of the company preferred the ankle-length style? Not if the store wanted to make a profit in the sock department. Yet journalists have this attitude: "We know what's good for you, so shut up and take it."
Howell calls this arrogance, "a disease easily caught by journalists, who can overlook its symptoms." One sees this on cable TV. Larry King will assemble a "panel" of journalists to answer the question "Are the media biased?" The journalists declare they are not and that is supposed to settle the matter. In only the rarest of cases are they confronted with their biases and held accountable.
That is because, as Howell writes, "We believe that we have a collective 'nose for news' and the judgment to know best what readers need to know and how to present it. We believe in our own wisdom and experience and in the purity that keeps us out of politics and special-interest groups. We have our own rules and we don't change them. We seldom ask for input from readers. We believe that if it weren't for us, the world couldn't be as well informed and democracy wouldn't operate as it should."
Re-read the sentence, "We have our own rules and we don't change them." That is what's wrong with modern media. Everything else gets updated, including our computer software, but the big media won't change. They remain locked in a '60s liberalism and a supreme self-assurance that only they know what's best for the country. When information options were fewer, they could get away with it. No more. News consumers now have many choices.
The media rationalize their loss of readers and viewers by blaming the internet and alternative media, like talk radio and cable. But if the big media had practiced balanced coverage, chances are that talk radio and cable news might not exist. These prosper because they circumvent the biases of the established media.
You know things are bad when journalists begin admitting bias. Columnist Michael Malone wrote on ABCNews.com that campaign coverage has been so biased, he is ashamed to tell people he is a journalist. The Gazettein Colorado Springs, Colo., carried an opinion column about "The Death of Objectivity," which criticized slanted coverage.
Most people will never meet a presidential candidate so their impressions are formed by media coverage. If McCain is portrayed as old and out of touch, rather than experienced and toughened by his prisoner of war experience, and Obama is presented as young, hip, and "news," that leaves an impression on those voters who don't dig beneath the superficial.
The media now own Barack Obama. Let's see how long they take to turn on him once he starts making mistakes. The public has already turned on big media, but big media is too into denial to notice. People are no longer buying their product; newsrooms are being downsized. "Journalists" are now left to wonder what happened to their once-great profession, as they pick up their final paychecks.
© 2008 Tribune Media Services Inc.